by James A. Bacon
The Virginia Department of Health has released its priorities for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in the next phase of the vaccination rollout. The top priorities are exactly who you’d expect — front-line essential workers and people over 75. It is reassuring to see that child-care and K-12 teachers and staff are high on the list.
In the initial phase, vaccines are being distributed to hospitals and nursing homes, either to people most likely to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus or to be at high risk of dying from it.
Next come the frontline essential workers. Police, fire and hazmat workers top the list. Then come corrections and homeless-shelter workers who work in settings where prisoners and homeless, packed into confined quarters, are at high risk of transmitting the virus.
Then comes the category of “child-care, K-12 teachers and staff.” One might ask why the commonwealth is prioritizing school teachers. After all, “the science” is clear that K-12 schools are low-risk settings for getting the virus. I’ll tell you why: Unlike the other occupations, teachers appear to be uniquely reluctant to return to their normal place of work. Their fears — rational or irrational — must be addressed.
Not all teachers are reluctant to attend school in person, of course. Many are putting put the wellbeing of their students ahead of any risk to themselves. They deserve everyone’s thanks and respect. Foot dragging seems most acute in Virginia’s major metropolitan areas where teacher unions are most assertive.
Think about it. Have you read anything about police or fire fighters in Virginia engaging in “sickouts”? No, despite all the opprobrium heaped upon policemen since the George Floyd killing, despite plummeting morale, and despite their frequent up-close-and-personal encounters with people who not always wearing masks and practicing social distancing, Virginia police and state troopers continue to serve. Of all occupational categories, only teachers have put their own wellbeing first.
Schools desperately need to get teachers back into the classrooms where they can instruct students in person. The online experiment has worked reasonably well for half the population but has been a disaster for the poor and minorities. By putting teachers at the head of the line for vaccinations, we eliminate the excuse for refusing to go back to school.
The health department has done its part by making teachers a top priority in the vaccination rollout. Now it is critical that VDH work closely with the Virginia Department of Education and local school districts to solve any logistical problems that would interfere with getting teachers vaccinated ASAP. Meanwhile, now that they know the state’s vaccination priorities, educators across the state need to be preparing for the return to full-time classes.
I can’t think of anything more essential than salvaging what’s left of the school year.There are currently no comments highlighted.