Editors Note: This story previously included a photo that misidentified Chris Baldwin
In Hamilton County, both Noblesville Schools and Westfield Washington Schools have called on Gov. Eric Holcomb to prioritize teachers and school staff for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Currently, only Hoosiers ages 65 and older are eligible for the vaccine.
Noblesville Schools Supt. Beth Niedermeyer and WWS Interim Supt. Chris Baldwin both wrote letters requesting teachers be prioritized.
“As chief executive of the state, we understand that you’re faced with prioritizing the needs of countless groups at every turn. That is exactly why we are asking you to consider the health, safety and wellbeing of our teachers and educational staff by prioritizing vaccines for educators as soon as possible,” the letter from Baldwin and the WWS Board of Trustees stated. “Thanks to the unwavering dedication and continued flexibility of our teachers, administrators and support staff, Westfield Washington Schools has been providing in-person education from the beginning of the school year. Our hybrid learning model and vigilant safety measures have been invaluable for the health and safety of our staff and students and vaccines would provide yet another way for us to combat the impact of the Coronavirus. Our educators continue to put students first by providing high-quality education while dealing with fears, health concerns and the plethora of other challenges that have been brought on by this COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, among many others, teachers and educational staff deserve vaccine priority.”
WWS also asked the governor to prioritize vaccines for bus drivers, custodians and food service workers, as they play an essential role in keeping the schools open to students.
Noblesville Schools had similar asks.
“We know you recognize the critical importance of ensuring that our children can safely continue their education, and their access to support services, during this difficult time,” the Noblesville letter stated. “We ask you to take additional action to support and protect the continuing operation of schools by prioritizing vaccinations for our staff. We believe we are one of only a few school districts in the state that has been able to continually serve our students in-person since August 4, 2020 thanks to the dedication of our over 1,500 teachers and support staff. They have pushed through fears for their own health and overcome significant challenges to be present and engaged in support of students. They have also worked hard to follow safety protocols aimed at keeping schools open. Despite this, our staffing continues to be delicately balanced and absences among any employee group (teachers, bus drivers, food personnel, custodians, principals, etc.) could quickly turn into a situation that forces us to close our buildings. Indiana students must not fall further behind. We take care of our staff so they can take care of our children. We urge you to authorize the vaccination for school staff now, with the goal of keeping our facilities open and operating to best serve Hoosier families.”
So far, the state hasn’t authorized teachers or school staff to receive the vaccine, unless the mention the 65-and-older age requirements. At a recent Hamilton County Health Dept. COVID-19 town hall meeting, several attendees asked for teachers to prioritized, but HCHD staff said they weren’t sure when that would happen, as they were following instruction from Holcomb and the state.
As of Feb. 5, the state hadn’t responded to either letter.