The Contoocook Valley School Board is urging Gov. Chris Sununu to re-prioritize K-12 educators and front-line staff from Phase 2a to Phase 1b of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.
The board issued a letter to Gov. Sununu Friday outlining the basis of its request.
Phase 1 of the New Hampshire COVID-19 Vaccination Allocation Plan began in December 2020 and will continue into March. Groups specified as part of Phase 1b – including people aged 65 and older, those medically vulnerable at significantly higher risk and family caregivers of those persons, residents and staff of residential facilities for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, corrections officers and staff, and first responders and healthcare workers not already vaccinated – became eligible to schedule a vaccination on Friday.
Through the state’s current plan, K-12 school and childcare staff will be eligible as part of Phase 2a, which is expected to begin in March and continue into May.
In the letter, the board pointed to the need to keep K-12 staff healthy to ensure adequate staffing and minimize the potential for disruptions to face-to-face instruction, resulting in improved student outcomes.
Below is the letter in full:
Dear Governor Sununu:
Thank you for your service to the citizens of New Hampshire during the incredibly challenging events of the past year. Among the many critical and difficult decisions you have had to make during this time is prioritizing vaccination eligibility. You have indicated that you intend to prioritize those you deem most vulnerable.
Throughout the fall and winter, you have repeatedly expressed your desire that schools remain open for face-to-face instruction, a desire we share and have worked hard to make possible. Furthermore, you have continually emphasized the importance of providing families with flexibility during these difficult times, another position we whole-heartedly support.
The ConVal School District has gone to extraordinary lengths to support these shared priorities. Our students were in school, in person, from the beginning of the school year until Thanksgiving. After a period of pre-planned remote instruction around holiday travel periods, they are once again in their classrooms.
Keeping schools open for face-to-face instruction requires adequate numbers of healthy teachers and other staff. Many school districts around the state have had to reduce face-to-face instruction due to staff shortages. At ConVal we have been fortunate, both in having low numbers of exposures resulting in quarantines, and more importantly in the willingness of our educators to return to their classrooms despite their understandable concerns about their health and that of their families.
In order to keep our educators and front-line staff healthy, and minimize the potential for disruptions to face-to-face instruction, we strongly encourage you to prioritize all K-12 teachers and other front-line employees and allow them to schedule vaccinations during Phase 1B. If you cannot support this request at this time, please consider allowing those educators and staff age 50 and over, and medically vulnerable educators and staff less than 50 years old, to be vaccinated in Phase 1B.
Taking this approach would support school districts in maintaining face-to-face instruction by ensuring adequate staffing levels, and improve student outcomes by providing students uninterrupted access to highly-trained and competent professional educators. Additionally, this approach would be consistent with your requirement that healthy young people not be vaccinated ahead of the most vulnerable members of our community.
Thank you for your consideration of this request, and for your continued service to the citizens of New Hampshire.
Rich Cahoon, Chair
For the Contoocook Valley School Board