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We Want Our Teachers to get COVID-19 Vaccine, Superintendents Tell Gov. Murphy

by Bill Duhart | For

This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to story:

Gov. Phil Murphy can expect to receive another strongly-worded letter Thursday from the president of the Camden County Association of School Administrators.

Joseph Meloche, superintendent of the Cherry Hill public school district and president of the association, said Wednesday he was sending the letter because he was “disappointed” Murphy had not responded to the first letter they sent earlier this month.

“We’re trying to urge the governor to adopt the sense of urgency we have to get our staff vaccinated,” Meloche told NJ Advance Media on Wednesday. “We keep hearing that we need to more fully reopen schools to get more kids into schools and to continue what we’re doing to help with the economy, to help with parents, to help with what’s going on in our world and we want to do that.”

A request for comment from the governor Wednesday afternoon was not immediately answered. Murphy did comment on vaccine distribution at a news conference in Trenton on Wednesday.

“It feels like the ground is beginning to shift into a better place,” he said of the state’s vaccine supply.

Meloche leads a district of 1,700 employees and 11,000 students. He was also one of 32 superintendents from around the county to call on the state to help get teachers and district personnel “the highest priority” to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

Currently in New Jersey, those eligible for the vaccine include: healthcare workers, including those working in pharmacies; long-term care residents and staff, including those in prisons and psychiatric hospitals; first-responders; people aged 65 and older, individuals ages 16-64 with serious medical conditions and smokers.

Being a teacher does not qualify for getting the shot now without one of the other prerequisites. Meloche and his fellow superintendents are trying to make the case that vaccinating their employees and returning to school full time benefits everyone.

Camden City School Superintendent Katrina McCombs, who co-signed the first letter to Murphy, said she isn’t disappointed they haven’t received a response yet. She said she remains “hopeful.”

“We sent the letter as a collective and we are waiting to hear a response,” McCombs said Wednesday. “It’s just to underscore how important it is for our educators and staff working with children to be prioritized as much as possible.”

McCombs said getting her staff of just over 1,000 city school district employees vaccinated is not a prerequisite to returning to in-person instruction. She said the district is planning to begin a hybrid instruction plan in early April.

But teachers in the city district have resisted returning to the classroom without COVID-19 vaccinations.

Cherry Hill, a relatively affluent suburban district seven miles east of Camden, is already operating on a hybrid schedule with students receiving in-person instruction two days a week.

Meloche said the follow-up letter to Murphy on Thursday won’t be signed by the other members of CCASA but will still carry the sentiment of the group and he thinks the sentiment of educators from around the state.

“We want him to take action to allow the county to assign doses to us and our staff members,” Meloche said. “We want him to focus it on educators specifically to allow us to make this happen.”

There have been 1,758,979 vaccine doses administered in New Jersey as of Wednesday morning, including 1,192,364 first doses and 566,441 second doses, according to state data. That’s out of 2.1 million doses the state has received, according to a running tally by the federal Centers for Disease Control. The state’s goal is to vaccinate 70 percent of its adult population—about 4.7 million people—within the next few months.