UPDATE: MARCH 1, 2021 – By the end of next week, LAUSD will receive enough doses of COVID-19 vaccine for teachers and key staff of the district’s elementary schools, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to an unnamed Newsom administration official, 25,000 doses of the vaccine will be provided for school personnel within days–far more than the 4,000 per week LAUSD was previously expecting. That allotment could significantly speed the resumption of in-person education.
According to documents obtained by the Times, LAUSD officials are now aiming for a “mid-April” restart for at least some portion of on-campus elementary-grade instruction. That timeline would allow a very short window to get shots into school staff, and allow them to complete the five- to six-week process of becoming fully inoculated before reporting for work.
In his weekly update video, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner called the vaccine allocation a “game changer” and thanked Governor Newsom for acknowledging that the district “serves students and families who’ve been amongst those most impacted by the virus.”
Nonetheless, the vaccine alone may not be enough for teachers to feel ready to return to classrooms. United Teachers of Los Angeles, the union that represents district educators and other on-campus professionals, has stated they would like to see Los Angeles County move out of the purple tier before bringing students back.
On-campus instruction for older grades appears unlikely to resume before the end of the traditional academic year. State regulations will not allow public middle and high schools to begin to reopen until the county has moved down at least to the red tier, and even then would have to find ways to reduce class sizes to just 25 percent capacity, along with meeting guidelines for upgraded ventilation and distancing within the classroom.
FEBRUARY 26, 2021 – As part of the effort to transition back to in-person education, California will dedicate at least 10 percent of all available vaccine for teachers and other K-12 school employees starting on March 1, Gov. Newsom announced yesterday. An estimated 75,000 doses per week will be set aside for school employees until the state’s hundreds of thousands of educators and other workers who interact with students can be inoculated.
“The education professionals who nurture and support our children deserve to be and have been prioritized for vaccines, and I am proud to accelerate those efforts in all 58 counties,” the Governor said in a statement announcing the plan.
The state will work with counties to allot doses based on the number of public school workers. Priority is expected to be given to teachers who work with the groups of students identified as at greatest risk for learning loss due to online education, such as homeless youth, those which special needs, students for whom English is not their primary language.
Higher education instructors and workers will still qualify earlier than many Californians under the existing tier system, but are not included in this set-aside program.
The UTA and other groups had expressed concern about rushing back to the classroom without a plan to get vaccine for teachers, and the new plan appears to at least ease some of those concerns.
“We need to know when it’s safe,” California Federation of Teachers president Jeff Freitas told the AP. “This moves us further along. The promise of 10 percent to get our educators and our school workers vaccinated creates the safest environment that we know of.”
Distribution will be carried out in collaboration with county-level education officials. In Los Angeles, 40 percent of doses available for all educators in the county will, at least initially, go to LAUSD, the Los Angeles Times reports. The massive district has already set up its own vaccination centers, already giving doses to school workers over 65.
While LAUSD is responsible for only about 30 percent of the county’s K-12 students, the district will receive a marginally higher portion of doses because the communities served by the district include some of the highest-risk.
“My priority is to ensure that resources are directed through an equity lens,” Debra Duardo, of the L.A. County Office of Education told the Times.
Part of the program to get vaccines to educators will depend on the distribution of specialized priority access codes. After an earlier version of the access code system proved ripe for exploitation by unqualified individuals, this new system will reply on single-use codes that, officials say, cannot be so easily shared or reproduced.