Both the superintendent’s plan and the roadmap from the governor’s office highlight COVID-19 testing as key. The governor’s roadmap calls for regular screening for education and staff who want tests, for those with symptoms who need a diagnostic test and for those who do not have symptoms but have been quarantined after an exposure.
“We are recommending in the report that schools are able to have onsite testing for anybody who is symptomatic,” Polis said, adding the state is encouraging and prioritizing community testing sites.
“Access to fast and reliable COVID tests is one of the most critical mitigation strategies to help schools maintain the safest environment for in-person teaching and learning,” said Mike Johnston, president and CEO of Gary Community Investments, which provides testing to educators and the public through COVIDCheck Colorado. “Estimates suggest our kids, many of whom are already behind, could lose nearly an entire year of academic gains, all while their parents can’t go to work and Colorado’s economy continues to decline.”
The group of superintendents and public health leaders are advocating for educators to be prioritized in the vaccination schedule. They said once educators have a chance to get a vaccine shot, schools will have a better shot at staying open regardless of the virus’ spread.
In the state’s current vaccine distribution plan, educators are treated as “essential workers,” putting them ahead of the general public, alongside grocery store workers and others, but behind police, firefighters, funeral home workers and dental office employees. Vaccines would likely reach teachers in the Spring.
The governor said the vaccine is unlikely to affect the classroom practices for this coming semester, because while there could be teachers inoculated as soon as February, the vaccine requires a second shot 30 days later.
“So that’s why we have all these layered protections for teachers this semester,” Polis said. “The vaccine will hopefully protect teachers for summer school for next year, but the layer of protections are critical for this coming semester.”