Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination rollout began on Monday. Here’s what local educators and their families are saying about their eligibility.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that school children were part of the next phase of vaccine distribution. We regret the error.
MICHIGAN—Across the state, students and teachers are returning to school for the second half of the school year. Some are still interacting from home, thanks to digital learning options, but many Michigan schools have made accommodations to open their classrooms—including reduced class size, increased sanitation measures, and limiting who can enter school buildings.
Parents are wrestling with decisions to vaccinate their children—and if so, whether to opt for the Moderna or Pfizer inoculation.
But whether they work in the classroom or the main office, it’s Michigan’s teachers and school staff who continue to be at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s vaccination rollout plan makes vaccines available to different members of Michigan’s population based on factors like age, occupation, and underlying health conditions.
As of Jan. 11, the state moved into Phase 1B, which includes teachers.
Detroit teacher Voncile Campbell missed seeing her students each day in the first months of the pandemic, so she found a new way to interact with them from home (and give parents a break).
“I’m getting emails [asking,] ‘are you ever going to read again?’” she said. “I loved it and the kids loved it.”
Bedtime stories have been retired, for the moment, as the master math teacher recovers from a series of December 2020 radiation treatments to shrink a tumor in her brain. Currently considered immuno-compromised, she scheduled to re-enter the classroom in April.
Campbell tells The ‘Gander that she is ineligible for a COVID vaccine, due to her health and recent radiation treatments. Her physicians tell her that she cannot be vaccinated prior to returning to work.
“If [vaccinations] are necessary for me to return to work, I wouldn’t be able to go into the building when I’m supposed to return in April,” she said.
Detroit Public Schools Community District teachers are already scheduling and receiving their vaccinations, according to Campbell. As she continues to recover from treatment at home, friends and supporters have begun donating to a GoFundMe campaign set up in her honor to help cover the steep medical costs associated with her condition and recovery.
Second grade teacher Kasey Hilton says she misses in-person learning.
“I think there are many teachers who agree,” she told The ‘Gander while working from her home-based virtual classroom.
“It’s not that we don’t want to be there, however, we need to make sure everyone there will be safe and have protocols and items we need in place.”
Hilton pointed out that other industries have been able to implement new safety protocols, proving that Michigan’s schools can—and should—do the same.
Her district does not currently have a date to return to classroom learning.
Instagram user @marykat.teaches recently posted a snapshot of her digital classroom screen, with each child’s camera turned off for the lesson.
“I miss faces,” she lamented on the social media platform.
West Bloomfield resident Bert Green works as critical care account manager for Philips Healthcare. As a health care worker, he’s already received a COVID vaccination and his wife, a school teacher, is already scheduled to receive hers.
“Thank God she’s getting the vaccine before she goes back into the classroom.” Green told the Detroit Free Press.
William Nowling, spokesman for County Executive Warren Evans Wayne County, said the county didn’t receive the coronavirus vaccine doses that were expected last week, causing higher demand for the near 3,000 vials that arrived at the county health department this week.
Teachers, child care workers, and law enforcement officers will have access to “the online signup soon” he told the Free Press.
Walk-ups and unscheduled vaccinations are not accepted through the Wayne County Health Department. Call your local health department to inquire about vaccination procedures in your area.