Newark Public and Charter School Officials Ramp Up Efforts to Get Educators Vaccinated this Week

NEWARK, NJ — Educators in Newark will be rolling up their sleeves this week to get vaccinated thanks in part to the efforts of the city's public and charter school officials to prioritize and arrange appointments for their staff. 

Following Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement earlier this month to expand vaccine eligibility to PreK-12 teachers and school support staff, Roger León, superintendent of Newark public schools, helped springboard this effort as prepare to get a shot at Barringer High School on Tuesday.  

“Superintendent León has spearheaded the vaccination of teachers and support staff in Newark because the health and safety of every staff member in district, charter, private, parochial, and early childhood center is of concern to him,” said Nancy Deering, a spokesperson for Newark Public Schools District.  “We know that he values the work underway with the leaders across the various school types and he applauds and commends their leadership in Newark.”

This initiative comes as the city’s public schools remain just weeks away from an April 12 return to in-class instruction. Part of the district’s plan to transition educators and students back into school buildings includes the implementation of a hybrid-model instruction. Students who opt for hybrid learning will return to classrooms part-time under restrictions, district officials said.

Part of the district’s strategy to provide vaccines for public and charter school educators at Barringer High School will include 16-18 nurses on site to vaccinate staff every 15 minutes. The plan is to administer 480 vaccines per day from Tuesday through Saturday, according to officials. 

Also leading the charge to roll out vaccines for the charter and public schools, Great Oaks Legacy Charter School Chief People Officer (CPO) Michelle Diaz has already helped broker efforts to team up with University Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark to arrange vaccination appointments for educators and support staff across the community. 

To date, Diaz said that initial efforts have already vaccinated half of Great Oaks’ 400 staff members in addition to nearly 1,000 teachers across the charter school community in Newark. 

“It was really important that our teachers feel that their safety was a priority in returning to school and that the safety of staff and students were put first,” Diaz told TAPinto Newark.

Prior to getting educators vaccinated, the Great Oaks CPO said that the schools prioritized two things: education of the vaccine and ensuring access to staff members who requested it.

By hosting several town hall meetings to inform teachers about the vaccine as well as and ensuring those who wanted it had access to it as soon as possible, particularly for high-risk educators, the plan was to vaccinate teachers for the benefit of the whole Newark school community. 

“That really speaks to our strong push to make sure that anything that was going to make a difference for our teachers, they had access to it,” she said. “The best part about this is being able to serve our students and our families… The more we can shift the narrative towards creating a safe space for our staff and students, the more we can do the work that we really came here to do which is educating our students.” 

Although Great Oaks moved to get charter school educators and support staff vaccinated, Diaz explained that since the pandemic began, public schools district officials have worked closely with the charter schools with frequent calls for updates around the community, share ideas and discuss matters regarding plans for reopening dates. 

“It’s been a collaborative effort from the very beginning,” she said. “As the date for opening vaccines up approached, that collaboration was all the more important because we are all working in the same community, we are all serving the same students, so looking at it as a community effort was important.”

Commending the partnership between Newark’s public and charter schools, New Jersey Children’s Foundation Executive Director Kyle Rosenkrans and Executive Director in Residence Sarah Yan said that rolling out vaccines to teachers can prove to be pivotal to safely reopening classrooms. 

"A big priority for all schools right now is to reopen in a way that feels safe for families and staff,” Rosenkrans and Yan said in a joint statement. “A critical part of that feeling of safety is the availability of vaccines for staff. We are grateful to the Newark Department of Health, the Newark Board of Education, University Hospital and Newark Beth Israel for providing opportunities for teachers to be vaccinated so that schools can reopen this spring. It truly shows how the city of Newark and its partners value the work of educators in this community.” 

Thus far, the initiative has coordinated vaccine dates for educators (across schools) with Newark Beth Israel Hospital on March 18, 19 and 26. Another vaccine date for educators (across schools) is scheduled with University Hospital on March 21.

City officials will also join district officials at Barringer High School Tuesday to welcome some of the first public and charter school teachers as they receive their vaccines.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-03-16 02:32:10 -0700