Round Table calls on Gov. Baker to reclassify educators for Phase 1 COVID-19 vaccination

North Shore Superintendents’ Round Table Calls on Gov. Charlie Baker to Reclassify Educators for Phase 1 COVID-19 Vaccination

The North Shore Superintendents’ Round Table and Union presidents from their 29 Districts are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to reclassify educators in the state’s vaccination distribution plan to make them eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine during Phase 1. 

The administrators issued a letter to Gov. Baker last week outlining the basis of their request.  

Phrase 1 of the plan began in December 2020 and will continue into February. Gov. Baker announced yesterday all groups in Phase 1 are now eligible to receive the vaccine. This includes COVID-19 facing health care providers, first responders, staff and residents at congregate care settings, and other prioritized groups.

Through the state’s current plan, educators are in the second group to become eligible for the vaccine through Phase 2, which will begin in February and continues into March.

In the letter, administrators point to decisions by other states to prioritize educators as essential workers and therefore vaccinate them earlier, including New York, Connecticut and Maine. In each of those states, there are similar expectations as have been identified by the Baker-Polito Administration and Department of Elementary and Secondary Health (DESE) to prioritize in-person learning as much as possible in schools. 

Below is the letter in full:

Dear Governor Baker,

We, the North Shore Superintendents’ Round Table, write to you as a unified group of 29 administrators joined in this effort by all 29 of the union presidents in our respective districts, to respectfully request that you reclassify educators and make them eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations during Phase 1 of the vaccination process.

We cite the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in urging you to prioritize the health and wellbeing of our educators so that Massachusetts school districts can operate at the fullest possible strength as our nation begins to emerge from this global pandemic.

In making our request, we cite the following:

1. Your office and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have drawn from the guidance and wisdom of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which strongly advocates for students to return to, at a minimum, an in-person hybrid learning model. AAP further advocates that students should fully return to the classrooms where and when possible.

2. We, as educators and leaders, recognize and agree that the best place for learning for our children is in the classroom.

3. We have a profound responsibility to support the educational, emotional, physical, and mental well-being of the children across the Commonwealth. 

4. First responders, healthcare workers, and educators share a commonality in their work in that they must come into contact with dozens or hundreds of people on a daily basis and often cannot be completely socially distant from those they serve. 

5. The stress and anxiety placed on educators as they continue to put themselves in this position without the protection of an existing vaccination is unfair and is not in the best interests of advancing public education in the Commonwealth.

6. Beyond the teachers, themselves, there is a very real risk that an educator could expose their own families after contracting COVID-19 in the performance of their duties.

7. In order to perform our jobs at the level desired by your office, DESE, and the AAP, the professionals in our field should be vaccinated as quickly as possible so they can continue to work with the children they come into contact with daily.

8. The CDC’s guidance focuses on “Preservation of Societal Functions” under which health care personnel, frontline essential workers, and other essential workers are identified for Phase I vaccination. We state, without reservation, that access to public education and access to school facilities is a societal function.

We believe it is inarguable that educators are front line workers. Given the societal need for public school — not just public school via Zoom — and the expectations set by your office and DESE, educators should be vaccinated immediately and without delay so that they can perform their duties safely and securely.

While we understand that there is not an inexhaustible supply of vaccines, we believe the vaccination of educators should be a priority and is deserving of Phase 1 status. We also call your attention to other states of similar educational expectations including New York, Connecticut, and Maine that have classified educators in the first phase of vaccination. 

As always, thank you for your leadership during this unprecedented time, and thank you for your consideration.

Those signing it from local district included:

•Chelsea Public Schools – Almi Guajardo Abeyta, Ed.D. (Superintendent) & Don Dabenigno (Union President)

•Everett Public Schools – Priya Tahiliani (Superintendent) & Kimberly Auger (Union President)

•Revere Public Schools – Dianne K. Kelly (Superintendent) & Gina Garro (Union President)

•Winthrop Public Schools – Lisa A. Howard (Superintendent) & Kristen Reynolds (Union President)

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