Massachusetts school committee members call for educators to have vaccine priority

A coalition of nearly 70 school committee members across Massachusetts are calling for school staff in urban and low-income areas to be prioritized for coronavirus vaccination to help speed up a safe return to the classroom.

In a letter sent to Gov. Charlie Baker Monday night, coalition members said low-income districts are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and asked that officials prioritize educators in receiving a vaccine.

“We can have educators who are protected and are able to better focus on educating students,” instead of worrying about coronavirus infection, said Roberto Jimenez Rivera, Chelsea School Committee member.

Devin Sheehan of the Holyoke School Committee and lead organizer of the letter to Baker said vaccine rollout in Massachusetts has been slow.

“We do so many things well in this state … but there are other states beating us to this,” Sheehan told the Herald.

As of Tuesday, at least 17 states have made some teachers eligible to receive a vaccine, according to a map by Education Week.

According to Massachusetts’ distribution plan, early education and K-12 workers are listed eighth out of 10 priority groups, coming just after people with two or more comorbidities and those age 75 and up. That vaccination phase is set to take place from February until March.

Jessica Tang, president of Boston Teachers Union, said she agreed teachers should be moved up in the line, “The majority of our educators are in favor of getting the vaccine as soon as it is available to them.”

Baker has long said schools are safe and has advocated for students to be in the classroom. Many districts are preparing to welcome students back for hybrid learning in the coming weeks.

“There are times we want to say that teachers are essential workers … but then we don’t want to give them the essential workers status when they really need our support,” said Stacey Rizzo, vice chair the Revere School Committee and vice president of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.

When asked about its position on the vaccine phases, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education referred the Herald to the state’s COVID-19 Command Center.

The command center referred to comments from Baker during which he sidestepped a Herald question and said, “school is one of the safest places where adults and kids can be.”

Erin Tiernan contributed to this report.

Read More