Philly School District starts teacher COVID-19 vaccinations with help from city, CHOP

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By KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- The School District of Philadelphia kicks off its teacher vaccination program on Monday after an invitation went out to 10,000 teachers and school staffers last week.

The vaccinations are taking place at seven locations in the city: four school district buildings, one archdiocesan location, one private school and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. CHOP and with the city's Department of Public Health are partnering with the district in this effort.

"While the vaccine is not mandatory for staff, we do hope that when staff receive their appointment invitation they will choose to get vaccinated as another layer of safety for themselves, their families, and the students and staff that they interact with," school district Chief Talent Officer Larisa Shambaugh said in a news conference last Wednesday.

The invitations are going out in phases. The first in line include pre-K through second grade School District of Philadelphia educators who are scheduled to be the first to return to their classrooms in a hybrid in-person and online learning model. School staffers who have already been working inside the buildings, including maintenance, food service and principals, are also eligible in the first group.

"Other groups will follow from there, with the next phase being a priority of staff who will be returning later after the [pre-K through second grade] phase-in," Shambaugh said.

The youngest students were supposed to begin hybrid learning on Monday as part of the school district’s reopening plan. However, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers objected because most educators were not vaccinated yet and they had serious concerns about ventilation in the school buildings. School district officials maintain their investments in PPE and air flow solutions, including window fans, help make the buildings safe.

Health experts and the CDC have said, according to the science, schools can safely reopen for younger students without teachers being vaccinated.

A mediator got involved in the discussions between the district and union. The district moved the hybrid learning start date to March 1, but that is pending the mediator’s decision.