Some educators in San Jose eager to return to class are eager to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after Governor Gavin Newsom suggested that it be teachers’ turn.
Vaccinations are part of Newsom’s $ 2 billion Safe Schools For All plan, which comes into effect this month. The plan is to open California primary schools as early as February and vaccinate teachers by spring 2021.
Newsom announced on Dec. 28 that school staff and other childcare workers could have priority in Phase 1B of the nationwide vaccine rollout. Other recipients could include people aged 75 and over, rescue workers, and food and farm workers such as farm workers and food workers.
It is unclear when the county will reach this level and is currently vaccinating health care workers in the first phase.
Newsom’s plan is welcomed by the local education leaders.
“Schools are an integral part of our society,” said Jennifer Maddox, spokeswoman for the San Jose Unified School District. “San Jose Unified supports efforts by the governor and lawmakers to prioritize student return to campus, including COVID-19 vaccines for teachers. We are confident that this is possible. “
The teachers are excited about the vaccine
Danielle Wheatley, a kindergarten teacher at John Jay Montgomery Elementary School in San Jose, said it had been challenging to keep young children focused during online class. She welcomes the opportunity to return to the classroom.
But even there, it can be difficult to be an effective teacher when you have to keep social distance – a necessity without a vaccine, Wheatley said. That’s because effective teaching can often mean literally hands-on teaching, she said.
“Usually in a kindergarten class you can put a hand on your hand and help them how to write letters and how to work on things,” Wheatley said. “We won’t be able to do this even when we’re back in the classroom. The challenges are there no matter how we teach. “
Wheatley said she would line up for a vaccine when it becomes available.
“It would be good to have teachers next on the list because I know that it is difficult for families to have the children at home,” she said. “It would really help everyone if the teachers could get the vaccine and be back in the classroom. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will get better. “
Sylvia Liu, a teacher at Piedmont Hills High School, signed COVID-19 earlier this year. She worked from home but said she would take the vaccine to protect students and staff.
“After I had COVID, it wasn’t even my own concern because I am young and healthy,” Liu said. “I was more concerned about the people I could have contacted and given them the virus.”
Liu said the vaccine was critical to reopening schools and getting back to normal.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about the long-term effects of this vaccine, but the fact is that if the teachers get it, we’ll be back to school safely,” Liu said. “It will reduce the number of COVID cases and deaths and that is exactly what we want.”
Returning teachers are concerned about catching COVID-19
Some private schools have already been asked to return to teaching in person despite the threat of COVID-19. A local Catholic school teacher who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation worries every day about catching or spreading the virus in class.
The teacher returned to face-to-face classes in November but said there were many teachers in the classroom since October. “I am in a closed room with 15 other bodies for more than 7 hours a day,” said the instructor.
The teacher had no choice but to go back to school when the cases in Santa Clara County continued to skyrocket. As of January 1, Santa Clara County had recorded 71,755 cumulative cases and 747 deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn people to avoid crowded indoor spaces, citing data showing that the virus can spread easily in enclosed spaces with “inadequate ventilation”.
“My school did a really good job on safety procedures and I’m grateful for that – but it’s still very stressful,” said the teacher. “If I had the option, I would still be working from home to keep myself and my husband safe.”
Teachers interviewed by San José Spotlight said they did not know whether vaccines are required or how they are distributed.
There are still “unanswered questions”
In a statement, California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd said the organization appreciates the governor’s plan to reopen safely. However, the plan leaves “many unanswered questions” about implementation and execution, Boyd said.
Indeed, schools have concerns that protect not only teachers and other staff from completing COVID-19. Schools can act as vectors of disease; Officials worry that unvaccinated students can spread the virus to their similarly vulnerable colleagues and their colleagues’ families. Districts have already addressed these concerns, and Newsom’s plan seeks to address them through contact tracing, regular testing of students and school staff, and mandatory masking.
Other states, including Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, and Tennessee, are also considering giving teachers priority for the next wave of vaccinations. The Chicago Tribune reported that school nurses may be able to help with the rollout.
With California far from being COVID-free, Boyd said that CTA will continue to support distance learning for schools in counties in the purple plains, including Santa Clara County, and having widespread COVID-19 transmission.
“We look forward to more information and hope that the new guidelines the governor will release next week create a coherent statewide plan, rather than creating more confusion for parents and school districts,” said Boyd. “This must be a concerted effort to ensure a safe return to our classrooms, where we know our students are best learning and thriving.”
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.