WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The head of the School District of Palm Beach County wants teachers prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
A school district spokesperson confirmed to WPTV that Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy sent a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday, asking the governor to make the vaccine available to all school district employees, particularly those with direct student contact.
"I am appealing to you to authorize that all school district employees be classified as essential workers with regard to COVID-19 vaccine distribution, thereby giving our employees priority to receive immunization," Fennoy said in his letter.
Currently, teachers in Florida are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, unless they are 65 and older or deemed to be "extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers."
"If personnel, particularly those who have direct student contact are given this designation, that will allow our schools to remain open and ensure continuous operation, so we can continue to safely serve our students, families, and communities," Fennoy wrote in his letter.
The superintendent added that he recognizes the need to vaccinate health care workers and long-term care facilities, two groups that have received a large portion of the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida.
"Going forward, as decisions are made for future distribution plans of the vaccine, I ask that you continue your support and prioritization for school districts so that we have the resources and capabilities to fully serve our students, staff, and families," Fennoy wrote. "Our priority is ensuring the health and safety of our students and our dedicated staff as our campuses remain open."
READ LETTER TO GOVERNOR:
During a news conference in Longwood on Jan 4., DeSantis said there are no plans to add teachers to the COVID-19 vaccine priority list at this time.
"The fact is, just based on the data, the average person under 65 in our workforce has been at less risk than our senior population," DeSantis said. "So we're going where the risk is greatest. We're going where we can have the most impact on saving lives."
The governor added, however, that the next group he's targeting for vaccinations is the workforce, including teachers and other essential workers. However, he admitted it could take weeks or even months before enough vaccine is available for that population.
The Palm Beach County School Board is expected to take up the issue of COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers when it meets on Wednesday afternoon.
In neighboring Martin County, school board members voted on Dec. 15 to send a formal request to DeSantis, asking that he allow school district employees who have direct contact with students to be considered a priority to receive the vaccine.
A spokesperson for the Martin County School District said they have not received a formal response from the governor’s office yet.