NEW ORLEANS — The COVID-19 vaccine is headed to the classroom in Louisiana. Governor John Bel Edwards announced at a press conference Thursday that starting Monday, February 22, K-12 teachers, pregnant people, and people 55 and older with certain medical conditions will be eligible for the vaccine.
That means more than 1.5 million Louisianans will have access to the shot.
“It was exciting to receive the news,” said Lauren Jewett, an elementary school teacher in NOLA Public Schools. While she says there’s some relief teachers were moved up in priority, she says she knows it will be many weeks before teachers are fully immune.
“More kids are coming back in buildings, and you know, I think there was a lot of anxiety from educators saying we weren’t on that list, and more people were coming back in buildings, there’s a new strain,” she said.
It was a big win for the Louisiana Federation of teachers, too. Larry Carter, President of LFT, says Senator Cleo Fields had a big role in pushing state leaders to move teachers higher up on the list.
“To me, it was a very important development for our teachers, school employees, and the communities they serve,” said Carter. “Vaccinating teachers and school employees for us was one of the best tools that we thought could keep schools safe, open, and todays’ decision goes a long way toward getting us back to some sort of normalcy.”
Nola public schools superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis applauded the announcement, too. He wrote in a statement,
“We want our teachers and on-site school support staff safe and healthy, and so we will now do our part to help them gain access to these important shots as supplies and time allow.”
Both NOLA public schools and Jefferson Parish public schools have sent a questionnaire to teachers to get an idea of how many are interested in receiving the vaccine.
In an email to staff Thursday, JP Schools leaders wrote, “We will continue to work with our government and healthcare officials to secure vaccines specifically for Jefferson Parish Schools employees and hope to designate district-wide vaccination day(s) to make the process as convenient as possible. We may have less than a week’s notice to schedule designated vaccination days, so completing the vaccine questionnaire now will help us be prepared.”
But with no set timeline, teachers don’t want to see schools let up on mitigation measures like masks, sanitizing, and distancing just yet.
“We’re doing a very important job and we want to show up mentally and physically healthy for our students. You know, we can’t do our job if we don’t feel well,” said Jewett.