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Tulsa Public School teacher fears return to classroom without COVID vaccine

Posted at 2:55 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 10:21:39-05

TULSA, Okla. — Teachers and education staff across Green Country are not the priority for the coronavirus vaccine, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health's distribution plan.

The working four-phase plan lists teachers and education staff in the third phase of distribution.

According to the OSDH, Phase 1 includes nursing home residents and staff and front line workers. First responders, senior citizens, state and tribal government leaders, and residents in "congregate locations" - like homeless shelters and prisons and jails - will receive the vaccine next.

Teachers, students, and administrative staff in education centers will get the vaccine in the third wave.

"I think it's important that children be back in the classroom, and one of the ways to achieve that is to elevate teachers on our priority list and put them in a higher phase, so at least we can get teachers vaccinated and keep our teachers safe." Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, said.

Sommer Lyons, a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at McKinley Elementary School in Tulsa Public Schools, said teachers should receive the vaccine at the same time as healthcare workers and nurses in long-term care facilities.

"It's not safe for kids to go back if there aren't healthy teaches to take care of them," Lyons said. "We have to take care of ourselves to be able to do that very important job."

State health officials expect 33,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 10,000 doses from Moderna. The initial limited supply makes the state's distribution timeline an unknown.

Tulsa Public Schools are set to return to in-person instruction again on January 4, 2021.

"It's naive and I think it set us up for just staying in this ebb and flow that could get better but it isn't," Lyons said.

Teachers' security in a vaccine syringe is likely still several weeks away. As is it stands, a return to the classroom is just a few weeks from now.

Lyons told 2 Works for You she feels unsafe returning to teach her students without the safety of a vaccine.

"I want them to be safe. I want myself to be safe," Lyons said. "I want my family and people I interact with to be safe, and that's more important than anything right now."

Lyons believes TPS should return to in-person instruction after Spring Break 2021.

The OSDH's four-phase distribution plan is a working draft and can be altered.

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