The Atlanta school board passed a resolution this week calling on Gov. Brian Kemp to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers. The move comes after some district superintendents and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators also wrote letters to the governor urging him to do the same.
Teachers are scheduled to get vaccines in the state’s second round of inoculations, called group 1B. The board’s resolution asks the governor to move teachers into group 1A, the first tier which includes health care workers and seniors over the age of 65.
Kemp wrote a letter to the board, saying he’d like to include teachers in the first group, but the state’s vaccine supply is too low.
“In response to your resolution, I agree,” Kemp wrote. “If the state were receiving adequate supply of the Covid-19 vaccines, [Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner] Dr. [Pat] Toomey and I would quickly move to expand the current vaccination criteria.”
Kemp said adding teachers to group 1A would compound the state’s vaccine bottleneck.
“Elderly Georgians who are most at risk of severe illness or death have struggled to find appointments, with websites down and phone lines busy,” Kemp wrote. “Unfortunately, implementing your resolution would make that problem even worse.”
At a public event this week, Kemp said it will take months to vaccinate the state’s teachers and school staff members.
“Even if we had everybody eligible right now, it’s still going to take two to three months so you’re going to be almost into the summer break,” he said.
In his letter to the school board, Kemp referenced a statement Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky made this week.
“…safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen [schools] safely,” she said.
Atlanta Public Schools is currently phasing students back into classrooms by grade level. Other Atlanta districts, including Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett counties have returned to in-person learning. Clayton County Public Schools remains remote for now.
A note of disclosure: The Atlanta Board of Education holds WABE’s broadcast license.