If fully reopening schools is a priority, fully vaccinating teachers must be, too.
State officials are correct to point out that schools have been able to operate quite safely under current guidelines. Yet, exposure scares, quarantines and closures must be wearing, both physically and emotionally.
Our area teachers, most of whom have remained in the classroom this past year, should be commended for putting students and education first. They have put themselves in harm’s way to retain a sense of normalcy for students and the community. In order to return to a full in-person experience, vaccinating them is essential.
The added assurance of being vaccinated can give extra peace of mind, and that can help teachers do their jobs more effectively. Those jobs are hard enough already. Since it is likely that a vaccine will not be available to those under the age of 16 for some time, vaccinating those who come into contact with them is our best bet to keep that population healthy.
School is happening now. With a targeted age-based vaccine rollout announced by the Mills administration, younger teachers may not be eligible until sometime this summer. They’re also an easily identifiable group. Educators can quickly prove their employment, but they are also a captive audience working more than 8 hours a day in the same building. Let’s consider arming school nurses with doses of vaccine. They will get the job done.
Getting students back in the classroom is not just good for students’ education, mental health and peer-to-peer development, but it is also good for the economy.
In 2020, women eclipsed men for the first time as the majority of the workforce. The margin was slim, but it was a decades-in-the-making shift that was short lived. Between January and September, more than 850,000 women left the workforce, many citing a lack of childcare and a need to care for their children. This was four times the number of men who left the workforce during the same period.
Being able to open up our economy depends, in large part, on opening schools. We fully support a plan to vaccinate teachers and believe that they are at the top of the list of essential workers for many reasons.
The sooner we can get public-facing workers vaccinated, the sooner we can return to life the way we knew it roughly one year ago.