Oklahoma teachers will be getting a COVID-19 vaccine sooner after Governor Kevin Stitt announced teachers will move to Phase 2 in the state's vaccination plan.
The Governor said he made this decision because he wants all students to be learning back in the classroom.
Previously, teachers were in Phase 3 of the state's vaccination plan, but now that they are in Phase 2, they could get the vaccine as early as January.
This order applies to all Pre-K through 12th grade teachers in both public and private schools in the state and means teachers will also get the vaccine at the same time as people 65 and older, first responders and some public health officials.
Governor Stitt said he wants all students in the state to have the opportunity to return to the classroom in January, and he encourages parents to call their local school boards.
"We've heard from teachers, parents and students across the state who want to be safely in person in school,” said Stitt. “This needs to happen as soon as possible. It's a non-negotiable for me."
Oklahoma state and education leaders are reacting to this move and you can read their statements below.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister sent a statement:
“Teachers are the heart and soul of our school community, and we cannot have school without them,” said Hofmeister. “Allowing teachers to be among the top priority to get the COVID-19 vaccine is a tremendous move toward protecting the health of our hardworking teachers. I am grateful to Gov. Stitt for his decision to elevate K-12 teachers in the vaccine distribution plan.”
Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist gave a statement, saying,
Even as we face the challenges of a global pandemic, our teachers have kept a relentless focus on ensuring that every child has the support that they need to be successful. Teachers are essential workers and will always play an essential role in shaping the future of our children, which is why we have continued to advocate for them to be a higher priority. We are grateful to Governor Stitt for moving Oklahoma educators and school teams up to phase two on the COVID-19 vaccination priority list and acknowledging their role as the invaluable professionals that they are.
All of our students need and deserve to learn and grow together in person with their peers and teachers.
No one wants our students back to school in person more than our teachers, our team, our board, our students, and our parents here in Tulsa.
Team Tulsa continues to urge all Tulsans to wear your masks, wash your hands, and watch your distance to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
House Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D) tweeted this:
Gov. Stitt provided a COVID-19 update today and focused on education issues. I am very grateful that he is moving teachers up to Phase 2 of the vaccine distribution plan. This is an important step in making sure all schools can be open safely. However, to not acknowledge WHY some schools have closed their school buildings leaves out an important part of the issue. Let me be clear: everyone wants kids to be in school. We know it's best for kids to be learning in person.
The problem, though, is that our state leaders have not put policies in place, such as a statewide mask order, to prevent community spread so that schools can remain open. Schools are not a magic place where COVID does not spread.
It's true there has been lower spread in school than outside school. However, when the virus is spreading uncontrolled in communities around the state, it makes complete sense that teachers and administrators would make the decision to keep school buildings closed.
The Governor seems to be seeking to pit teachers and parents against each other. It's disappointing and not helpful. If we want schools to be a safe place, and if we want them to remain open, we have to make the tough decisions to control community spread of this virus.