Opinion: Teachers need vaccinations for schools to reopen safely

At the Santa Clara County Office of Education Board meeting on Feb. 3, Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan told the board and community: “Under the California Department of Health’s new guidelines issued Jan. 14, 2021, elementary schools serving grades K-6 could begin reopening once the adjusted case rate of COVID-19 falls below 25 per 100,000. Last week SCC met that threshold and schools that serve K-6 students may open if they meet the public health requirements and submitted a COVID safety plan.”

There is no doubt that a huge casualty in the war against COVID has been the relegation of children to a year or longer of distance learning. Our children and their parents deserve better. Distance teaching for elementary students must stop now, and elementary schools must be the first to re-open their doors no later than March 15.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told White House reporters last week that increasing data indicate that schools can safely reopen without teacher vaccinations. I beg to differ.  With the inordinate power of teacher unions and safe working conditions as an integral negotiated article in all teacher union contracts, vaccinations of all teachers, administrators and school support staff are an essential component of an effective reopening plan in the next 4-5 weeks. In addition, a robust testing regimen at each school site is non-negotiable critical link.

Let me suggest with limited vaccines that we begin vaccinations and opening those public schools in districts with the largest percentage of low-income students — those students suffering the most from the absence of in-person teaching and learning loss. Because the pandemic has increased inequity among those students of color, it is in the pursuit of justice to begin their return first, unless there are enough vaccines available for all elementary school teachers and staff. The one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine should be targeted to schools once approved for Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA along with the Moderna and Pfizer formulas.

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One only has to read about the Chicago Teachers Union’s resistance to reopening as they blame “sexism, racism and misogyny” in the public discourse and the United Teachers of Los Angeles as they tie reopening to myriad unrelated issues, as in a moratorium on approving publicly funded charter schools, to deduce that opening is nearly impossible without all school staff receiving vaccinations.

All Santa Clara County school districts should have addressed a safe reopening plan with updated regular testing, ventilation systems, social distancing guidelines, cleaning protocols, hand washing and mask wearing. Therefore, with these aforementioned plans and comprehensive vaccinations, schools can immediately and safely reopen to the benefit of all. Congress has already appropriated $54 billion for COVID-19 assistance, and President Biden is asking for an additional $130 billion in his $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

We can vaccinate teachers and support staff fast. We can make schools safe. The question is, do we have the will to do it now?

I recommend, as I did in my swearing-in speech in mid-January, for my board to hold …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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