Students are leaving Thurgood Marshal Elementary School after the Seattle Public School system abruptly shut down on March 11, 2020 in Seattle, Washington due to coronavirus fears. (Photo by John Moore / Getty Images)
Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau urged Governor Jay Inslee and key other state and county health officials to give school district educators and staff a higher priority on COVID-19 vaccines before returning to the classroom.
The next stage in Washington’s COVID vaccine prioritization has been released
SPS will currently continue personal lessons for around 10,000 pre-K, kindergarten, first grade and special special school classes on March 1, 2021. The plan was approved by the SPS Board of Directors in December 2020.
Due to the impending resumption of in-person teaching, Superintendent Juneau is calling for “prioritization of vaccinations for the following staff” who are all providing face-to-face tuition or services when students return to campus: preschool educators, kindergarten educators, class educators, specialty educators, school principals, assistant principals, security guards , Food service personnel and supervisors.
“Prioritizing vaccination for public educators and critical support workers will send a strong message of the state’s commitment to public education and care for our public educators at a time when so much is uncertain,” Juneau wrote. “This move will help build confidence in our shared commitment to recovery.”
The superintendent requests that SPS staff involved in personal learning be included in the second broad distribution, Phase 1B-1. This level currently prioritizes people aged 70 and over in multi-generational households. Grade K-12 teachers and school staff over 50 are currently listed in Phase 1B-2.
Check out Washington’s COVID-19 vaccination stages
“It doesn’t make sense to have an age limit of ‘over 50’ for education professionals,” Juneau said in her letter. “Our top priority must be to keep our employees, students, and communities safe physically and mentally and academically healthy.”
While education professionals 50 and older will be enrolled in Washington State Department of Health’s Phase 1B-2, which is expected to begin in February, Phase 1B-4 may require those under 50 to wait until at least April.
Juneau also offered SPS buildings as locations where health professionals could deliver the vaccine to school staff and the wider community.
Across Washington state, school districts are at various stages in planning a return to face-to-face learning. These decisions are made by the districts, not the state. A month ago, Governor Inslee issued new recommendations advising a large portion of schools to begin a gradual return to face-to-face teaching, starting with younger students. This was before the plan to reopen Healthy Washington was announced.
Governor Inslee previously made it clear that he can close schools in case of emergencies, but “does not have the legal authority to reopen them”.
Inslee’s previous guidelines included the following set of benchmarks that schools should target:
- Districts where COVID cases represent fewer than 50 residents per 100,000 people: Personal learning should be provided all Students.
- Districts where COVID cases represent between 50 and 350 residents per 100,000 residents: Districts are encouraged to begin personal learning, beginning with elementary and middle school students.
- Districts Where COVID Cases Are More Than 350 Per 100,000 People: Districts are encouraged to bring elementary school students “and those with the highest needs” back to classrooms in small groups of 15 or fewer.
For more information on Seattle Public Schools’ return to the personal study plan, please visit here