When New Orleans schools found out that educators would have priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, they did not waste a moment. They knew that their teachers and school staff had been following stringent safety protocols since school began this fall, whether in-person or hybrid. They also knew their teams deserved additional protection. So even before the vaccine was being distributed to educators, they made plans. Our district is decentralized, but it is also coordinated. This meant schools could work quickly and make the plans that best met their communities’ needs, while relying on systemwide supports. Because of this coordination, as of today, thousands of educators have had at least one vaccination shot, and every school staff member that wants the vaccine should be fully vaccinated by the end of April.
New Orleans Public Schools (NOLA-PS), as well as schools and charter networks, were ready when, on February 18, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that school staff would be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, February 22. School nurses and those providing health services had already been eligible for the vaccine.
After Edwards’ announcement, NOLA-PS began a process to connect schools with vaccine providers. They assisted schools with the process of scheduling vaccinations for their teams through a phased process. On February 23, the first teacher received their vaccine through this process; the district estimated that 1,000 school staff members would receive the vaccine this way by the end of that first week. At the same time, some schools were following their own processes with healthcare institutions, coordinating school-based vaccination drives for educators to attend.
By the end of the second week of vaccinations, according to NOLA-PS, approximately 3,000 school educators and support staff had received their first dose. This included teachers and other adults who work in and around schools, like food service providers, facilities and maintenance staff, and bus drivers. That 3,000 represents more than two-thirds of the staff who indicated that they wanted to receive the vaccine. The six largest charter management organizations (CMOs), who serve 50% of all of the students in New Orleans, offered all of their staff the vaccine by Friday, March 5, as well.
This is an exciting step on behalf of the safety of our educators, school teams, students, and community. It also helps facilitate the return to full-time in-person learning for all students. This means that schools may be able to offer expanded summer school to help students catch up to grade-level standards, as many have missed learning time due to the complications throughout 2020 and this school year. We are thrilled that our educators and school staff, who have been working so hard for our students, can now have the peace of mind and protection this vaccine can offer. Our school staff are so dedicated to our students; now, our district, medical providers, and state have powerfully demonstrated their dedication to them, as well.