DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — Despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s director’s announcement that schools can safely reopen without vaccinating teachers, educators are still expressing concern about potential health risks.
Under the CDC’s vaccination guidance, teachers are prioritized as “essential workers,” however, many have yet to receive vaccines as the nation continues to face a shortage of the vaccine.
Dr. Roshelle Wilensky’s cited CDC data showing that social distancing and wearing a mask significantly reduce the spread of the virus in school settings. That statement isn’t sitting well with some teachers.
“There’s increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” Walensky said.
The statement drew sharp criticism from public school educators like Mark Airgood, a special education teacher in Oakland, California, and Emily Busey, an Oklahoma high school teacher, who has asthma.
“I mean millions of people have died. So to me, you can make up for lost learning, but once you are dead or kill your grandmother by giving them COVID, you don’t recover from that,” Airgood said.
“I teach high schoolers; I teach teenagers. You hear about students going to parties or having these big events,” Busey said.
Busey worries about how the CDC’s language might impact the timeline of teacher vaccinations.
“Does that affect states deciding well if the CDC says teachers don’t need to be vaccinated, then we can just bump them down with everybody else,” she said.
The conversation surrounding school safety — growing contentious during the year. American families and school leaders quickly realizing there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to pandemic learning that satisfies everyone.
The CDC also says it’s too early to consider requiring the COVID-19 vaccine in certain settings like schools while demand greatly outweighs the supply.
The news comes as districts across the country are at odds with state and city leaders over how to best reintegrate in-person learning. Chicago Public Schools are currently at an impasse with the Chicago Teachers Union, which says it refuses to return to the classroom despite outrage among Chicago parents.
In a note to parents Thursday morning, the union said in part: “We love your children. We desperately want to be back in classrooms with them, but we are not willing to accept the inevitable illness and death a reckless reopening will inflict on our city.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was visibly frustrated about negotiations at a news conference Thursday.
“The ball is in the CTU’s court,” she said, telling the union it’s time to strike a deal. “We need them to actually respond to us not move the goal post again, not add on another bunch of extraneous issues like defunding the police.”
Cindy Meza, a CPS parent, who recently lost a family member to COVID, is not happy with the push from the district.
“It’s been hard for all our family. I feel like CPS is somehow forcing the parents and forcing the teachers to go back into the building,” Meza said.
CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson, voiced her irritation as a parent who wants her child back in class.
“I am incredibly frustrated, not just as a leader of this system; my child was ready to come to school tomorrow,” Jackson said.
President Joe Biden’s administration vowed to reopen most schools within his first 100 days. Members of Congress are currently battling over a new COVID relief package. Democrats want to allot $130 billion to K-12 schools; however, Republicans are asking for $20 billion.
In a CDC study released last week, researchers suggested that in-person learning can be safe in schools and surrounding communities commit to a slew of health precautions like wearing masks, remaining six feet apart, limiting indoor dining and sports. In a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they also said “there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”