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Kansas City Public Schools Will Vaccinate Teachers Next Month So In-Person Learning Can Start In March

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Students in Felicia Bowles' third grade class at Pitcher Elementary work on an assignment on March 6, 2020, the week before schools closed due to the pandemic. Even after teachers are vaccinated, students will be expected to wear masks and practice social distancing because there's no vaccine for kids yet.

Missouri has entered the next phase of coronavirus vaccine rollout, which includes teachers and other essential workers.

A day after state education officials expressed frustration with the slow rollout of coronavirus vaccines for teachers, Kansas City Public Schools announced most employees will be able to get vaccinated next month.

KCPS is partnering with Truman Medical Centers to provide the vaccines, Superintendent Mark Bedell said at a school board meeting Wednesday. The CEO of Truman Medical Centers, Charlie Shields, wants to get students back in school as soon as possible because he’s also the president of the Missouri State Board of Education.

That’s Bedell’s goal, too.

“But as I’ve always said, we’re going to do it with safety at the forefront,” Bedell told the KCPS school board on Wednesday. “I don’t want to be in a situation where we’re having to shut the schools down every other day because we’re not properly practicing those mitigation efforts that need to be in place.”

On Thursday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced that the state would move into the phase of vaccine rollout that includes teachers.

Bedell said Missouri has the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires two doses. If teachers and other KCPS employees can get the first dose in early February, then a second dose three weeks later, schools could reopen as soon as March. KCPS students have spent the entire school year learning remotely.

“It’s also important that everybody knows the state is requiring state assessments this year. At the end of the day, we’re not going to be able to offer those assessments to students at home,” Bedell said.

State tests were canceled last year as the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. Most teachers had hoped they would be suspended again this year, according to a Missouri State Teachers Association survey.

But at a state board meeting Tuesday, Assistant Education Commissioner Chris Neale defended the decision to test this spring.

“I think we all agree there are consequences to testing, and we want to minimize unintended or negative outcomes to that,” Neale said. “But this is the hardest year our profession has ever had, and there are consequences to not testing. Not knowing where our students are is not an option.”

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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