Friday, January 15, 2021
Jan. 15, 2021

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Vancouver, Evergreen schools chiefs call for early vaccinations for teachers, school staff

By , Columbian staff writer

The school superintendents of Clark County’s two largest districts are calling on Gov. Jay Inslee and state Department of Health leaders to give higher COVID-19 vaccine prioritization to educators and school personnel — before they return to the classroom.

In a joint letter signed Monday night, Evergreen Public Schools Superintendent Mike Merlino and Steve Webb, superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools, request all pre-K-12 educators, school leaders and support staff be included in the state’s next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which is in February.

Currently, Phase 1-B2 of the state’s four-tier plan prioritizes people 70 years and older, and 50 years and older in multigenerational households, along with K-12 educators and school staff older than 50. Educators and staff younger than 50 may have to wait until at least April, as part of Phase 1-B4, to receive a vaccine.

Roughly half of the districts’ workforce is 50 or older, the letter stated.

“To safeguard our employees as we expand in-person learning to middle and high school students,” the letter read, in part, “it is necessary to vaccinate educators, school leaders and support staff.”

“They continue to work tirelessly to serve students during this extraordinarily difficult time. To reopen the economy and address pre-K through 12th grade learning loss, the State of Washington must reopen its public schools. In doing so, the state’s top priority must be keeping our staff, students, families and communities safe and healthy.”

Evergreen and Vancouver have similar phase-in reopening plans that begin Jan. 19. Both districts plan to have all elementary students in hybrid learning by Feb. 1, in accordance with the latest state guidelines.

To assist this effort, both school districts have offered the help of trained staff and the use of their facilities as vaccination sites.

Said Webb in a statement: “In addition to the Center for Disease Control COVID mitigation strategies, vaccinating all pre-K–12 employees at the same time will add another layer of protection for our staff, students and families.”