COVID vaccines could bring full return to face-to-face learning in state’s K-12 schools

Staff Report

Expansion of COVID vaccine access to include K-12 educators and school staff could mark a major step toward full return to face-to-face learning in Louisiana schools, the State Superintendent of Education said.

Vaccination of early childhood center workers and K-12 and support staff began Monday.

Dr. Cade Brumley

“I’m grateful and relieved to know our early childhood workers, as well as K-12 educators and school staff, now have access to this vaccine,” Dr. Cade Brumley said in a statement after the announcement. “This signifies the value of our essential employees and will enable even more Louisiana centers and schools to be fully open to serve students, families and communities.

“I extend my thanks to Governor Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Health and our state’s medical professionals for working alongside us throughout this pandemic and for making our educational community a priority,” he said. “Although not perfect, Louisiana has managed to maintain an early childcare system and a K-12 educational program throughout this pandemic.”

Brumley first requested priority vaccine access for educators and staff in a Dec. 12, 2020, letter to LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney Phillips, copied to Edwards. This request drew national attention being one of the first official requests of its kind as it included priority access not just for K-12 teachers and staff but for early childcare center workers as well.

This letter was followed by similar requests from advocates across the state.

According to the latest data available on the Department’s School Reopening Dashboard, 67 percent of students are participating in fully in-person instruction, 20 percent are fully virtual and about 13 percent are in a hybrid setting.

Distribution of the vaccines will be determined through the state Department of Health and will not be based on population or geographic location, Brumley said.

“What we have been doing over the last month is working through early childcare centers and working with school systems to help them think through a process for a delivery of the vaccine to employees in the event this day would happen,” he said. “Across the state, we’ve seen systems and childcare centers that have worked with pharmacies, clinics and hospitals for delivery of the vaccine in the event this day happens, and they’ve had discussions on whether they’d have sites on school campuses or if they go off campus to get the vaccine, and we feel that most school systems know the quantity they would need.”

The DOE requested priority access for employees in early childhood centers, as well as the pre-K-12 educators, teachers and leaders. It will also include cafeteria workers, support staff and school bus drivers.

That total statewide amounts to approximately 167,000, Brumley said.

For over a month, the Department has been working with local systems to develop vaccine distribution plans to help ensure equitable access to these voluntary vaccines and vaccine information.

This guidance included identifying the total number of vaccinations needed for their school system as well as recommending that systems coordinate with vaccine partners such as a hospital, clinic, pharmacy, Public Health Office or other entity.