Teachers and other education workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday have been notified by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and many have started making appointments, said city health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley on Friday.
CHOP was tapped last week to coordinate the vaccinations of thousands of city education workers, initially at the Roberts Center in its University City complex, and then in six other school locations around the city.
“CHOP is starting with the teachers who are at the lower grades, that includes both those who are potentially going back and those in the nonpublic schools that are already teaching, and then they’ll work towards the higher grades later,” said Farley, who didn’t have exact figures about how many teachers had made appointments.
The availability of vaccines for teachers and others who staff school buildings has emerged as an issue in the school district’s efforts to reopen for some in-person learning. The city health department had not put teachers among the highest priority groups for vaccines, saying that national data has shown schools are not major sources of the virus’ spread.
The district had wanted to open buildings for students in grades prekindergarten through second grade on Feb. 22, with teachers returning on Feb. 8 to begin preparing. However, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers — citing issues including vaccination availability and worrisome building conditions particularly around ventilation — invoked an agreement that called for a third-party mediator to determine if the district has met all required safety standards. That mediation has been going on for two weeks.
The health department estimates that approximately 20,000 education workers in the city, including those in private and charter schools and registered child care providers, are eligible for vaccinations through CHOP as the effort intensifies to open some in-person schooling. About 10,000 of them are either already teaching in person or expected back under the district’s plans.
The current planned opening date is March 1.
Archdiocesan and some private schools have remained open to varying degrees, however, and some charter schools are planning re-openings that vary from the district’s.
Alberta O’Brien, CEO of Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter, said that her K-12 school is planning for a reopening from kindergarten through fourth grade, and up to eighth grade for special education students.
“My teachers have been making appointments over the last few days,” she told Chalkbeat. .
She said her school sent names of their eligible employees to the district’s charter school office, which forwarded them to CHOP. They got an email from CHOP inviting them to set up accounts, and asking when they expect to be in buildings with students.
“They are aware of who will have kids in front of them sooner,” O’Brien said
City health department spokesman James Garrow said that all of the vaccines for this effort are coming from the city’s allocation, “which is why some people may not be able to set appointments right away.”