APS seeks vaccination priority for school staff

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Shelby Perea, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
·2 min read
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Feb. 23—The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education is calling on state officials to move school employees closer to the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines.

The board voted unanimously Monday to pass a resolution asking Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state Department of Health to "show clear support for the health and safety of communities by immediately prioritizing the vaccination of public school employees."

New Mexico's vaccine distribution plan puts educators in the "frontline essential workers" group, which isn't eligible to get vaccinated right now.

"This group will be eligible next — though it may be a month or more until we have enough vaccine to move into this phase," said Matt Bieber, DOH director of communications. "That said, many educators have already been vaccinated because of their age or health conditions."

Among the groups currently eligible for a vaccination are people 75 years and older, and those who are at least 16 and at risk of coronavirus complications.

Earlier this month, Gabriella Blakey, APS interim chief operations officer, reported that 90% of staff have said they want the vaccine and about 20% had been vaccinated with at least the first dose.

"The state is eager to vaccinate everyone who wishes to be vaccinated, and we are doing so faster than 47 states. We remain constrained by the vaccine supply we receive from the federal government," Bieber said.

The APS resolution says vaccine access for school personnel is necessary to boost the economy and educational system.

"The ability to maintain classroom learning is directly affected by having healthy teachers and staff whose safety and confidence hinges on access to the vaccines," the letter says.

The call to action comes less than a week after board members decided to keep the district's students learning online, with in-class small groups for select kids who are struggling the most.

"(The resolution) doesn't say anything about tying it to reentry or anything else, it just says, 'please prioritize our teachers for vaccinations,' " Board President David Peercy said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Peggy Muller-Aragón — who wants to bring more students back to school — asked if it was possible to reconsider that reopening decision at a future meeting.

"The community, as you know, is just begging," she said.

Peercy told the Journal in an email that such a meeting has to be requested by at least two board members and needs 72 hours' notice.

He said on Monday that nothing had been scheduled, adding there are multiple factors to consider before calling an additional meeting on the issue.

Meanwhile, the board is also asking the governor to separate students' eligibility to play sports from schools having to open in a hybrid model, which combines in-person and online learning.