In an effort to expedite COVID-19 vaccine access to teachers, Baltimore City Public Schools partnered with Johns Hopkins Medicine to begin vaccinating teachers and school staff who are already working at in-person learning sites.
The program will begin on Tuesday.
As many as 500 employees will get vaccinated each week, beginning with meal service workers, custodians, teachers and others who have been working in person, schools CEO Sonja Santelises said in a press conference on Monday.
“This is just the first day of what will and is a multi-step effort to provide vaccinations for teachers and staff working directly with students,” she said. Within the first 30 minutes of making the announcement, a hundred employees signed up for a vaccine, according to Santelises. Prioritized employees will be randomly selected.
“We know how important it is to the long term health and well-being of our city and our neighbors to see the safe and successful reopening of City schools,” Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J Daniels said in a statement. “I am glad Johns Hopkins can fulfill its mission to support the city and its citizens – especially our youngest – through this urgent and important partnership.”
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced last week that the state will move from Phase 1A into Phase IB of the state’s vaccination plan, which includes teachers and child-care workers.
Although the school system is not requiring educators and staff to be vaccinated, it is possible that those who may not be comfortable with a vaccine now may change their mind once they begin to see their colleagues get vaccinated, Santelises said.
All vaccination appointments offered by the Baltimore City Health Department are booked through the end of January, but this is a separate program through Johns Hopkins University, which will have a different appointment system for educators to sign up for vaccines, Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, commissioner of health for Baltimore City, clarified.
The first group of 500 prioritized teachers and staff will get notices from Johns Hopkins and will be able to schedule an appointment at more than one vaccination site, Dr. Gabor David Kelen of Johns Hopkins Medicine said. At this rate, it would take about 17 weeks to get all 8,500 school-based employees vaccinated.
Last week, Baltimore City Public schools announced its plan to bring more elementary and high school students back into the classrooms starting in mid-February. The plan calls for kindergarten through second grade students to return on Feb. 16, with third through fifth graders and 9th grade and 12th graders following suit on March 1.
Parents will have an option to keep students in virtual learning. Currently there are around 2,000 out of 78,000 students are already learning in-person at 27 of the city’s schools.
To make sure teachers are comfortable, the school system will dedicate the week before students return in person for teachers to visit their classrooms so that they can confirm that precautions, such as air purifiers, are present in their classrooms, Santelises said.