Pinellas County school board urges state to move school employees up in vaccine priority

The Pinellas County school board wants teachers to move up on the priority list to get the COVID-19 vaccine, saying educators and staff should be included among essential workers.

Board members voted Tuesday to send a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis urging all school district employees with direct contact with students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

"Yes, our teachers are essential workers, yes we must prioritize them," said Laura Hine, Pinellas County School Board member.

In the letter, the board says school employees, "are front-line heroes who serve their students, families and community daily."

FEA Safe Schools Report:

The body now joins a growing push across our region and the state pleading with the Governor to take action for educators.

"If you are mandating us to keep schools open and full, you should protect the people who are required to work there.  It’s just common sense," said Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association President, Nancy Velardi.

The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association sent a petition with more than 1,100 signatures to Tallahassee Monday, saying the risk teachers face from in-person learning should move them up in priority for the coronavirus vaccine.

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

"They’re terrified, they are getting more and more nervous," Velardi said. "They are very uncomfortable with the numbers, the rising numbers of children in the classes and the rising number of cases."

According to data from the Florida Education Association, 91,907 children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the school year, and at least 26 educators have died from the virus. Two main drivers behind the FEA’s letter to the Governor last month.

"We know the best way to protect those who work in our schools and our students is to make sure all of the adults are vaccinated," said FEA President Andrew Spar.

The CDC recommended people over 75 and essential workers, including teachers, first responders and grocery store employees, be next in line for the shots.

However, DeSantis disagrees. He has made his stance on the issue clear saying seniors remain the top concern.

"This is based on data, and if you look at the COVID mortality, 65 and up represents over 60% of the COVID mortality," said DeSantis over the weekend.

Education advocates just want to know when it will be time for the people working in classrooms.