Oklahoma teachers may receive the COVID-19 vaccine sooner than what was originally expected. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced in a press conference on Thursday, December 17, 2020 that plans are underway in an attempt to move teachers to Phase 2 of the vaccine administration order. This is to eventually get face-to-face classes a normal thing again.
At the press conference in Lawton, Stitt addressed the multiple schools in need of the vaccine.
“Most of your kids are in-person or at least are given the option of in-person” Stitt said, referring to the Lawton School Districts.
“There are a couple of school districts in Oklahoma that have still not given an option for in-person since last March,” he said.
Initially, the plans were for teachers to be a part of Phase 3, along with other school staff and students. No estimated time frame has been announced for Phase 3, yet. Stitt directed the Oklahoma State Department of Health to fast-track teachers and support staff up to Phase 2 of the vaccination plan.
Dr. Lance Frye, the State Commissioner of Health said that the governor’s office met with state health leaders about the possibility of moving Pre-K teachers into Phase 2 with the rest of the bunch. The question was would adding the Pre-K teachers be a dramatic shift in the already modified vaccine plan. Officials determined that it would not be a dramatic change at all.
Frye noted that the state recognizes the Pre-K programs are just as essential to a child’s educational growth as K-12 learning. Frye also said the state would like to see districts have an in-person learning option for Pre-K through 12th grade beginning in January 2021.
Even though there is no date set in stone for the beginning of the Phase 2 vaccination plan, they are hoping to begin in early 2021. Frye said the timeline will not move anybody out of Phase 2.
Stitt cannot legally force school districts to offer in-person learning, but he pleaded with them for the sake of the children.
“Let’s give every kid an in-person option,” Stitt said. “I plead with the board members in Tulsa and Oklahoma City,” Stitt said, referring to offering in-person learning. He then asked parents to get involved by contacting their local school boards.
Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister weighed in on the importance of teachers receiving vaccinations earlier than planned.
“Teachers are the heart and soul of our school community, and we cannot have school without them,” Hofmeister said. “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.”