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South Florida School Officials Are Urging For Teachers And Employees To Get COVID-19 Vaccine Priority

Superintendent Robert Runcie
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Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie speaking during a virtual meeting.

School district officials in Broward and Miami-Dade counties are urging that teachers and staff get next priority in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a Wednesday webinar hosted by the national organization Chiefs for Change, Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie expressed the importance of the vaccine and said it is key in fully reopening schools.

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“Our schools are essential to the function of our economy and if we’re serious about opening our economy, we cannot do that without fully reopening our schools,” Runcie said.

Runcie pointed to the many school campuses available in the district that could work as vaccination sites and suggested that school nurses can be trained to receive and administer the vaccine.

“Our schools have infrastructure, locations that are available in our communities throughout,” said Runcie. “If we look at opportunities to distribute the vaccine, it would make a lot of sense to look at our school system.”

Similarly, in a Miami-Dade County School Board meeting later Wednesday, board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall also suggested using school sites for vaccinations.

Bendross-Mindingall authored the item presented to the board Wednesday asking that COVID-19 vaccinations be given priority to teachers and all school personnel.

“Teachers, specialist instructional support personnel, aides, food service, and custodial workers and principals as a priority group for the administration of the vaccine,” said Bendgross-Mindingall. “We include all personnel.”

The item asked that Superintendent Alberto Carvalho advocate for the vaccine to local and statewide health and government officials. Board member Mari Tere Rojas suggested the board send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis. It received full support from the board.

Earlier this week, state Rep. Patricia Williams, who represents the Pompano Beach area, sent a letter to the governor requesting that teachers be considered essential workers “so they have priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“As teachers are being made to return to in-person instruction, it is critical that we allow them the opportunity to do this as safely as possible. This is why I am requesting that the governor expand the definition of essential personnel to include our teachers,” Williams said in a statement Monday.

Palm Beach County schools Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy also sent a letter to the governor Tuesday with a similar request, stating that "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 far, vaccinations in Florida have been largely limited to health care workers and adults aged 65 years and older.

The governor's vaccine plan calls for expanding access to teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other essential workers once most seniors, which remain the priority, get vaccinated.