As we all know, vaccines are a major tool to defeat the pandemic and they’re one way to help ensure our educators and students are safe once we return to the classroom. As we continue to make progress toward our return to in-person learning, we need all the support we can get from city partners to get vaccinations, testing and the other resources we need.
Here in San Francisco, The City has in fact delayed providing unique codes for teachers. These codes could have made it easier for educators to make an appointment to get the vaccine. Last night, the city released 2,650 of its 5,000 priority vaccination codes provided by the state exclusively for educators, and we’re getting those out this afternoon so that teachers can get priority vaccination as soon as tomorrow. It’s unclear why The City has not also released the rest of the codes, but we look forward to that happening as soon as possible.
President Joe Biden also recently stated he will increase vaccine production and he’s committed to vaccinating educators across the country.
The nation has stepped up, the state has stepped up, now it’s up to us as a city to get this done. If The City made vaccinating all our teachers a priority, we could get the whole thing done in a single day.
I’d like for our city partners to join us in putting on a teacher vaccination day like nearby counties have for their educators. We can partner with Oracle Park, where the Giants play, and have our teachers get the vaccine they desperately need. That would be a real home run for our city after a season of strikeouts, and it would show the families and students who are suffering that we are making the return to in-person learning a priority.
Up to now, teachers have been scrambling to make appointments at Walgreens and CVS, without the priority codes, and they’ve had to get access to the vaccine the best way they could. Many have been taking BART across the Bay to the Oakland Coliseum to get a shot. We are grateful the vaccines are available and we know how lucky we are that access is increasing. But every day educators are expected to make things happen with very little support. We can and must do better.
It is great news, too, that San Francisco is moving from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier. We recently approved a tentative agreement on health and safety standards with our labor partners to bring children back to in-person learning, with vaccines, once we reached this tier. Vaccination is a key component of getting educators ready to return to classroom learning. So let’s get it done.
Every day we are working with the Department of Public Health to prepare additional school sites for inspections and approval for in-person learning. We have inspected 15,000 windows across 1,600 classrooms, and worked closely with our site leaders at each elementary school in the first waves to plan for how their school site will meet the health and safety guidelines.
This process takes time and we all wish we could move it along faster. But we are responsible for the safety of 53,000 students and over 9,000 staff who help our schools operate efficiently. We know our planning has been careful and cautious because we understand many of our parents and our educators are scared and have legitimate concerns. School districts across the state have been grappling with the challenges wrought by the pandemic. We are in communication with each other, and we are learning from each other.
We understand that many students and families are struggling right now. No matter what side of the distance learning screen we’re on, whether it be parents and caregivers trying their best to support their children and young people, teachers working nonstop to support learning during a pandemic, or city and county officials who are managing vaccinations. We are all in this together.
Gabriela López is president of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education.