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CMS Board of Education requests school staff be a priority for coronavirus vaccine

In a letter sent to top health officials, the board requests those working directly with students or in schools receive the vaccine after health care providers.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The CMS Board of Education is formally requesting school staff be a top priority to receive the Coronavirus vaccine when it is available.

On Tuesday, the board sent a letter to Dr. Nathaniel Smith with the CDC, Dr. Mandy Cohen with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Gibbie Harris, the Mecklenburg County Health Director.

The board is requesting that when a vaccine is available, any K-12 staff member that works directly with students or in a school be priority to receive the vaccine, after health care providers. The letter says the priority would be in the best interest of students and staff.

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"A lot of people are looking for some return to normalcy as soon as possible so it just seems that after health care workers, that our teachers and other school based staff should be in line to receive the vaccine should they want it,” said Jennifer De La Jara, a Board of Education member. She says if the vaccine helps to lower community spread numbers, it could allow them to return to full time in person learning at a faster pace.

Under the current plan laid out by North Carolina leaders, teachers and school staff with chronic illnesses are included in phase 2 of the distribution. Also included in that group are adults with chronic health conditions, those over the age of 65, migrant workers, prisoners and homeless shelter residents.

Health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line when the first coronavirus vaccine shots become available, an influential government advisory panel said in Tuesday.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 to recommend priority be given to those groups in the first days of any coming vaccination program, when doses are expected to be very limited.

The two priority groups encompass around 24 million Americans out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.

State health officials have made it clear there will be a limited supply of vaccines available.

"If someone is a K-12 teacher or a firefighter and have 2 more chronic conditions they are going to prioritized after we do our healthcare workers and long term care workers," Dr. Mandy Cohen said at Tuesdays state update.

But school board members say vaccinating all school employees, including teachers, bus drivers, custodians or anyone who interacts with students, would be in the best interest of students and staff.

"Our schools are a central function, as we know, of our society and we would like to send a message that we would like our teachers and student facing staff to be considered a priority within that second tier," said De La Jara.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools released new data relating to Covid-19 cases in schools Tuesday afternoon. The new numbers show there have been 23 new cases of Covid-19 among staff members. For reference, there are 19,106 staff members within CMS.  

Twenty-two new cases have been reported among students, according to the latest data.  There are 41,688 students in the district who are reporting for in-person learning. 

This data represents a 4 day time period, shorter than what they typically release. For perspective, that's only 8 less students than the previous full week.

But there are still no signs that covid is spreading within the school buildings.

"We have 0 schools that have identified school clusters. For clarification, the county Health Department identifies a cluster for us. We are not identifying those, that is their responsibility to help us figure out through contact tracing if cases are related or not," said Kathy Elling, Chief School Performance Officer.

Currently, CMS is slowly transitioning into Plan B, a mix of in person and virtual learning. So far, all kindergarten to 5th graders are getting 2 days of in person learning. Monday, middle schoolers who attend K-8 schools returned.

Middle schoolers who go to a traditional middle school and high schoolers are set to return on January 5.

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