Cedar Rapids, Marion school superintendents ask governor for coronavirus vaccines faster

Superintendents from five school districts in Cedar Rapids and Marion sent a joint letter to Gov. Kim Reynolds Monday asking for more vaccines to be allocated to the state’s priority populations, which includes K-12 staff.

The superintendents are asking for more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as the state’s Feb. 15, deadline quickly approaches for schools to offer the option of 100 percent in-person learning to all students.

The letter was signed by Cedar Rapids Superintendent Noreen Bush, College Community Superintendent Doug Wheeler, Linn-Mar Superintendent Shannon Bisgard, Marion Independent Superintendent Janelle Brouwer and Xavier Catholic Schools Superintendent Kim Hermsen.

“You have shown the public that returning students to fully in-person instruction is a state priority,” the letter states. “In this context and on behalf of our 6,365 metro area educational employees we urge you to place full priority on protecting our pre-K-12 school students, their families and our staff by reallocating these additional doses to immediately vaccinate school staff across the state.”

Superintendents are asking the Iowa Department of Public Health to reallocate 64,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine statewide from the Long-Term Care Pharmacy Partnership Program to the state’s priority populations.

According to the letter, which was viewed by The Gazette, this quantity of vaccine will allow for every interested school staff member in Iowa to receive his or her first dose of the vaccine before the required in-person learning begins.

“Since last March, school staff have been at the cornerstone of Iowa communities and our response to this global pandemic,” the letter states. “All school staff members deserve the ability to be vaccinated before being required by law to return to circumstances in which the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)-recommended social distancing cannot possibly be implemented.”

In addition to Reynolds, the letter also IS addressed to Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia and Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo.

Reynold’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Last week, Reynolds signed into law Senate File 160, which requires K-12 schools to offer a 100 percent in-person learning option by Feb. 15.

Supporters of the measure cited concerns about students not in schools falling behind in their education, possible mental health issues for isolated students and students at risk of abuse not being at school and under the supervision of mandatory reporters.

School officials worry that with more students in the classroom, there will be no room for social distancing. More students and staff could have to quarantine from exposure to COVID-19 or test positive.

Last month, school nurses received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Linn County. They qualified for phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan.

Phase 1B, which began Feb. 1, includes K-12 teachers, school staff and child care workers, along with first responders and people 65 and older.

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Cedar Rapids, Marion school superintendents ask governor for coronavirus vaccines faster