At last night’s meeting of the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education, Superintendent Jill Baker revealed that the district is reaching a major milestone in its efforts to vaccinate its employees.
“As of this Saturday, all of our employees will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated,” said Baker.
The LBUSD has about 12,000 employees and is the largest employer in the city. Long Beach has drawn praise from California Gov. Gavin Newsom for being a leader in getting teachers vaccinated.
According to LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou, the district has so far offered more than 6,200 appointments for vaccines to its employees.
“That’s in addition to the many employees who’ve received vaccinations through other means,” said Eftychiou, who said the district did not have those numbers. The district has not made it mandatory for teachers to be vaccinated prior to returning to school.
Some employees criticized the district when they were first offering vaccinations because the process didn’t prioritize teachers who were already in the classroom or expected to return soon. But that has since changed, according to the district.
“We have been sending appointments to employees in sequenced, targeted fashion, starting with the earlier grades, and we have already progressed through high school, providing multiple opportunities for appointments,” said Eftychiou. “At a certain point, we’ll be at saturation in terms of demand among our people.”
The LBUSD is well ahead of neighboring school districts in the effort. Los Alamitos Unified is under the jurisdiction of Orange County, which just added teachers to its list of those eligible to receive the vaccine last week. Compton Unified, which plans to reopen schools next week, will be opening its employee vaccination clinic on March 9.
Baker said that the speed with which the LBUSD has vaccinated employees is a result of the city having its own health department, which opened up eligibility to teachers as soon as the state allowed, and has long worked with the LBUSD.
“It’s a great story to tell because that collaboration existed before the vaccine existed,” she said.
The LBUSD is planning to reopen elementary schools on March 29, and LBUSD deputy superintendent Tiffany Brown said the district submitted its reopening plan to the city’s health department earlier this week. The state’s guidelines for reopening requires an “approving agency” to green-light reopening plans, and Brown said the district has worked collaboratively with the health department on its plan.
“We’re awaiting approval, hopefully by the end of the week,” she said. “Should we need to change things, we will do that with plenty of time to resubmit and get approval.”
The district also said more school-specific information on elementary reopening plans (including schedules for the school day) would be coming out Thursday afternoon.
“Our schools are ready and have been ready to physically reopen,” said LBUSD elementary superintendent Brian Moskovitz. “They have the PPE and they have the protocols and signage in place. Thursday at 4 p.m. all parents, guardians, and families will receive more information from their principals. Parents should have a very good picture of what it will look like in your child’s classroom.”
Middle schools and high schools are scheduled to reopen in April, but they need Los Angeles County’s rate of coronavirus infections to subside a little bit more before they’re allowed to. LA County must reach the benchmark of only 7 new daily infections per 100,000 residents to get the green light. Right now, it stands at 7.2, but that number has been steadily declining.
The next LBUSD Board of Education meeting will be March 17.
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