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The Vigo County School Board voted to send a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb asking him to prioritize K-12 teachers for COVID-19 vaccinations.

The board approved a resolution by a 7-0 vote Monday.

The letter starts by addressing the importance of having students back in school for the state's economic recovery. Parents and guardians need reliable school schedules so they can work themselves, but "we cannot provide that without adequate staffing, and that will remain difficult to achieve until our teacher workforce feels safe returning to school."

The letter continues, "In Vigo County, we are encouraged to see COVID numbers declining and vaccination rates increasing for the most at-risk populations. There is still great concern, however, among educators about the spread of the virus in a traditional school day."

"Our workforce, like other sectors, is aging, and many teachers have underlying conditions or close family members who are at hi-risk. In addition, most substitute teachers are themselves retired teachers. We rely on them to staff our classrooms when full-time teachers are absent, but many of them have completely left the substitute pool because of fear of exposure to the virus. To re-open schools fully, we must prioritize their access to the vaccine. This will expedite Indiana's return to normalcy far beyond public education."

The letter concludes, "We urge you to take immediate action on this. We cannot operate schools for the good of our students without teachers — essential workers — who feel safe, healthy, and ready to provide the best possible instruction every day."

Copies of the letter will be sent to Dr. Kris Box, Indiana health commissioner; Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner; the governor's workforce cabinet and local state legislators.

Board president Jackie Lower said the letter will be faxed "ASAP."

After the meeting, Lower said the board "felt we needed to make a public statement ... It's a topic of discussion throughout the community and the state. We felt strong enough we needed to make a resolution."

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