(The Center Square) – Teachers and support staff in Oklahama's pre-kindergarten through 12th grade classes are being moved into phase two of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday.
The decision to move school staff up the list was made to "encourage school districts to provide an option for safe, full-time, in-person instruction," a news release from the governor's office said.
“We know our kids are struggling without being able to attend school in person,” Stitt said in a statement. “Our teachers are so important to our children and to our state, I know they’ve battled through many challenges this year to change how they teach to try and make sure their students don’t fall through the cracks. That’s why I’m so proud to work with Commissioner [Lance] Frye and the Oklahoma State Department of Health [OSDH] to prioritize our educators for the COVID-19 vaccine and help get our kids back in the classroom.”
OSDH also will continue to providing testing to schools to guard against any significant outbreaks.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said schools are among the safest places a student can be.
“This update was reviewed and discussed with state government, health and education officials as we focused on finding a solution that was in the best interest of our students, their families, our teachers and those that work to keep our schools running across the state,” Frye said in a statement. “We are hopeful this will help in our efforts to have all students return to in-person learning as soon and as safely as possible.”
State Sen. Adam Pugh, chair of the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee, and State Rep. Rhonda Baker, a former Oklahoma educator and shair of the House Education Committee, also vocalized their support for the governor’s announcement.
“It is so important for our students to be able to learn in person from their teachers,” Baker, R-Yukon, said. “This benefits not only academic success but their mental health. The decision by Governor Stitt to prioritize public school teachers in receiving this vaccine is greatly appreciated by myself and others who represent our public educators. This will give teachers, parents and students confidence in staying in the classroom.”