Michiana teachers upset over stark difference in vaccination schedules

BRIDGMAN, Mich. - The vaccination process is complicated and it differs among states. What’s upsetting to some educators is that over in Michigan, teachers have most likely had their first vaccination shot. But if you step over into Indiana, that’s not the case. In fact, teacher vaccinations are still a long way away.

Michiana teachers have been eager to get vaccinated since day one of this pandemic but it all depends on where they live.

In Michigan, vaccinating school staff was a top priority.

"So in about mid-January. We knew that our educators in the state of Michigan would be in the category of one b. So we began really planning the vaccinations," Shane Peters, the Superintendent at Bridgman Schools said. "As of two weeks ago Saturday, all of our educators have had their first dose of the vaccination”

And it’s not just teachers being vaccinated at Bridgman Schools.

"We have over 74% of our staff currently vaccinated," he said. “I'm talking about food service and custodian and transportation. You know those people have all been vaccinated as well because it really does take everyone to make a school system work”

High School English teacher Sarah Conklin has been working in Bridgman Schools for nearly two decades. She’s relieved to have been a priority in Michigan.

"To have teachers kind of moved up that list as school started to go back face to face, I think was a reminder to us of the service that education provides that we are facing everyday challenges, meeting the social and emotional needs of our students, as well as educating them," Conklin said.

In mid-February White House officials said they do not believe teacher vaccinations should be mandatory for schools to reopen but that they do agree teachers should be prioritized like frontline workers.

In the end, the decision is up to the states. 28 states plus the District of Columbia are already allowing some or all school staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, Indiana is not on that list.

"It makes you ask a silly question like, is this virus different in Michigan than it is in Indiana? It's obviously not. It's the same virus in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky. All these states are practicing vaccinating frontline workers like teachers and postal workers and in Indiana, for some reason is saying no," Josh Kinder, an Elkhart Community Schools Middle School math teacher said. “The fact that our regional neighbors are proceeding differently, really highlights the fact that perhaps Indiana strategy isn't as scientific, as the health department and the governor are saying it is.”

Not being deemed essential is causing a lot of unnecessary grief in a lot of industries.

"Here Governor Holcomb and health departments have created a situation where teachers are feeling bitter, grocery workers are feeling bitter and undervalued," Kinder said.

Especially education, where teachers say they haven’t felt appreciated for many years.

"For teachers, that's kind of the world I live in. So there are lots of ways right now in the past five to 10 years that teachers have felt undervalued in Indiana," he said.

With White House officials urging schools to provide in-person learning within the next few months, many are urging Indiana officials to step up.

“I think that when you take something like, as absolutely essential as quality public education, and it becomes a political pawn, it becomes a talking point of well this isn't really a priority for us, that sends a message to the residents of the state of Indiana, that the students aren't valued that their teachers aren't valued," Conklin said.

Conklin said that the decision to not vaccinate teachers sooner might've forced her to move if she lived in the Hoosier state.

Now on Thursday, we are diving deeper into teacher vaccinations in Indiana and why there is a lag in doing so. Critics saying schools are not big transmission zones and older citizens need the vaccine more.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, reach out to us! Learningcurve@abc57.com.

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