Speed up vaccines for teachers, Seattle lawmakers urge Inslee and Durkan

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To bridge a dead end in the school reopening between the Seattle Public Schools and their teachers union, several lawmakers are campaigning for Governor Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to set up educator vaccination clinics on school campuses and their schedule for the Accelerate receipt of doses.

In a letter sent last week by more than a dozen lawmakers representing Seattle in state law, Inslee called for clinics to be set up on school grounds “to make schools easy to open quickly.” Another letter to Durkan asks for the city’s support.

“Site-based vaccination is important to vaccinate school staff for second shots, rather than having staff take time off of vital work to schedule and get vaccinated,” the letter said. “Site-based vaccination is the strategy that has proven most effective for universal vaccination in critical workplaces.”

But on Monday night, Inslee gave no indication that he would change the state’s admission requirements to prioritize teachers.

According to the current vaccination schedule, most educators do not have access to the vaccine until spring. School workers aged 50 and over are next on the list of priorities. A government initiative to help teachers avoid long waiting times for a vaccine appointment is expected to be implemented right now. It is unclear how many school grounds will be affected.

Since January, the district and the Seattle Education Association (SEA) have been negotiating a plan to offer preschoolers face-to-face tuition from first graders and approximately 2,500 disabled students. Although the two sides haven’t reached an agreement yet, the district announced last week about 700 educators who teach preschool-age children and students receiving special education benefits that they are expected to report on March 8. In response, the union filed three unfair labor practices complaints against the district on Sunday.

“Of course this is between the district and the staff, but I hope they can do it,” Inslee said in a statement emailed. “Students have relearned in person at more than 1,400 schools across the state, and educators have driven the implementation of safety protocols. I have attended schools that are both urban and rural, low income and low income, old and old schools are new buildings and with students from different backgrounds. Regardless of your circumstances, you can make it work. “

Once teachers aged 50 and over are eligible, a contract between the state and Kaiser Permanente will make the process more convenient for teachers with pop-up vaccination clinics in buildings owned and operated by Kaiser. The plan could include opening some vaccination centers on school grounds that don’t have a Kaiser Clinic nearby.

Vaccination for educators has been a key issue in labor negotiations for the reopening of school buildings here and across the country. In Seattle, many teachers have requested access to vaccines before returning to the classroom. This is in line with the stance of the nationwide teachers’ union, the Washington Education Association, a powerful broker in state politics. A survey of roughly half of the 6,000 SEA members found that 62% would like educators to have access to the vaccine before classrooms reopen.

In January, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau wrote a letter to state health officials asking for all teachers to be involved in the next phase of vaccination.

“It doesn’t make sense to set an age limit of more than 50 years for educational professionals. Our top priority must be to keep our employees, students, and communities physically safe, and mentally and academically healthy, ”she wrote.

Senior state officials have recognized the need to vaccinate educators, but stressed schools can safely reopen without them if appropriate safety protocols are in place, such as: B. Masking and social distancing.

Kelsey Nyland, a Durkan spokesman, said new high volume vaccination sites in the city would have the ability to vaccinate eligible teachers once the state sends the necessary doses for the next level of vaccination. Durkan is unable to change vaccination priorities.

“Mayor Durkan wants the teachers to be back in the classroom. The city of Seattle stands ready to vaccinate eligible teachers as soon as possible, especially as we move on to the next phase, which is high risk critical workers 50 and over, ”Nyland said in an email.

The district is under significant pressure to provide more services to students with disabilities. Some families have been promised months of in-person tuition, and the district is currently under investigation by the Department of Education for failing to provide adequate tuition to children with disabilities. In negotiations, the union has argued that educators and students may not be adequately protected under current conditions when teachers have to or are in close physical contact with children when working with children who cannot wear a mask.

“We are committed to ensuring that educators and staff are vaccinated to meet this legal requirement in order to provide education for disabled students,” said Gerry Pollet, Rep., D-Seattle, one of the lawmakers advocating a fast Vaccination campaigns for educators.

Guidelines released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say vaccines are not required for reopening school buildings, but federal agency has encouraged state officials to consider prioritizing educators. However, the CDC has also emphasized the need for extensive testing and encouraged districts to stay away or work in a hybrid model when transmission is high in the community.

“SEA thanks legislators who have made the health and safety of our students and educators a priority. Vaccination is an important protective layer against COVID, ”said SEA President Jennifer Matter.

But even if educators were offered the vaccine sooner, it is unclear what difference that would make, by and large, in reopening the school. In Oregon, teachers were among the first to receive cans, and most of the kids there are still studying remotely. The negotiations also focused on mitigation strategies such as building ventilation and other workplace issues such as staff accommodation.

“[Seattle Public Schools] Also, their energies need to be realigned to reach an agreement with SEA that will provide every possible protection as not every member of the community will be vaccinated, ”Matter said.

Hannah Graether, an educator at Franklin High School who received news to report back in her school building next week, said the vaccination wasn’t the only factor for her to be comfortable when she returned.

She has not received any information about security measures in her school building that have increased her confidence. (Some elements are still being negotiated.) And at this late stage in the game, with only three months of schooling left, she fears the transition to reopening will actually result in students losing more classroom time.

“Changing the teaching model right now will adversely affect learning,” said Graether, who works with students whose mental health is linked to bipolar disorder, ADHD and depression.

At the negotiating table, as part of a reopening agreement, the union asked for weekly access to rapid tests for the virus and detailed logs of security measures such as contact tracing. A full-time nurse was also asked to be assigned to each school building.

When asked whether vaccines would drive the negotiations forward, Matter replied by email: “Vaccines would certainly help!”

The Seattle Times reporter David Gutman contributed to coverage of this story.