Educators champion efforts to keep schools open by prioritizing teachers and school staff for COVID-19 vaccines
CEA is stepping up its efforts to keep schools open and safe by prioritizing vaccinations for teachers and school staff, as recommended by the CDC. A statewide awareness campaign launched today features Connecticut Teachers of the Year encouraging the state to do what’s right for students, teachers, families, and communities by vaccinating educators now.
“Our students can’t wait,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “The time is now to vaccinate teachers and school staff, getting our educators where they want to be—safely in school with their students, where they can focus on the social and emotional learning needs of their students—without jeopardizing their health. The new CDC guidance is a good first step, but now it’s time for the state to take action.”
President Biden and medical experts say teachers should be moved up in priority to receive the vaccine, and while Governor Lamont recognizes that educators and staff should be prioritized, Connecticut has not joined more than half the states across the country already vaccinating educators.
“So many other states have already begun vaccinating educators, because they realize it’s an important step to safely returning to more in-person learning,” said Kristen Record, a physics teacher at Bunnell High School in Stratford and 2011 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, who appears in the campaign. “If we want to prioritize in-person learning, Connecticut needs to get school employees vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
“Connecticut has been a leader throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we should be leading the way on this important issue, too,” said Meghan Hatch-Geary, an English teacher at Woodland Regional High School in Regional School District 16 and 2020 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, who is featured in the campaign. “Teachers do heroic work, but we aren’t actual superheroes, which is why we need to prioritize vaccinations for all school staff so that we can do our essential work safely.”
The public awareness campaign began airing on all of the state’s major network television stations as well as on digital media today, highlighting the need to Vaccinate Educators Now! Featured in the ad are
- 2021 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Rochelle Brown, a kindergarten teacher at Poquonock School in Windsor
- 2020 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Meghan Hatch-Geary, an English teacher at Woodland Regional High School in Regional School District 16
- 2019 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Sheena Graham, a choir teacher at Harding High School in Bridgeport
- 2012 Connecticut Teacher of the Year David Bosso, a social studies teacher at Berlin High School
- 2011 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Kristen Record, a physics teacher at Bunnell High School in Stratford
“In order to help our communities get back to normal, it’s important for educators to be vaccinated so that we can be there for our students and families,” said Sheena Graham, a choir teacher at Harding High School in Bridgeport and 2019 Connecticut Teacher of the Year.
The new CDC science-based guidance calls for states to prioritize educators after healthcare workers and long-term-care facility residents, because vaccinating educators will make schools safer. It confirms what educators have been saying for the past 11 months: that safety is the top priority, and schools need effective measures in place to keep students, educators, and staff safe for in-person learning. School districts must consistently enforce mask-wearing, six feet of social distancing, frequent handwashing to prevent the spread of the virus, cleaning and disinfecting, contact tracing, and testing, as the CDC states. Critically, scientists are pressing for improvements to HVAC systems in schools and other facilities, as airborne transmission of coronavirus has been firmly established.
A key point of the CDC guidelines is that individuals who are fully vaccinated are exempt from needing to quarantine if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, which would allow more schools to remain open when all educators and staff are vaccinated.
“Since the leading cause of school closures in Connecticut is teacher and staff shortages due to quarantines, vaccinating educators as soon as possible means our schools will be able to remain open,” said Leake.
“If we truly value education and educators, and if we want our students to have the best educational experience in the safest setting possible, then we need to make every effort to ensure that all faculty and staff members are fully vaccinated before returning to buildings at 100%,” said David Bosso, a social studies teacher at Berlin High School and 2012 Connecticut Teacher of the Year.
The ad, which opens with masked students walking into school, begins with the narration, “If we want to keep schools open, medical experts say vaccinate teachers and staff.”
It features Dr. Anthony Fauci stating, “We need to vaccinate teachers… teachers are a priority.”
The ad continues with the five Teachers of the Year in a school library, wearing masks and socially distanced, saying,
“Let’s make it a priority in Connecticut, and get it done. We want to be with our students.
But in-person teaching must be safe—for everyone.
We must do the right thing in Connecticut.
Vaccinate educators now.”
The ad ends with a call to sign a petition at cea.org/vaxnow, urging the state to get educators vaccinated.
“Teachers are essential; without us there can be no school,” said 2021 Teacher of the Year Rochelle Brown, a kindergarten teacher at Poquonock School in Windsor. “We need vaccines to keep us safe so that we can return to school as soon as possible. Please vaccinate us now, so that we can do our jobs to the best of our ability.”
The ad was shot at Windsor High School following all safety procedures and CDC guidelines, including mask-wearing, cleaning and disinfecting, and six-foot social distancing.