LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Friday, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear joined Mayor Greg Fischer and other health officials to provide an update on vaccinations efforts in Louisville.
Friday was the first day that Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) educators could receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccination efforts for these educators are taking place at the mass vaccination site at Broadbent Arena and nearly 1,200 employees in the school district are set to receive their first dose by the end of Friday.
“From adapting to new instruction modes to help our children learn, to packing and delivering meals to ensure no child went hungry and so much more, our educators and school staffers have stepped up in countless ways to help during this pandemic,” said Beshear. “The entire Commonwealth owes all our teachers, bus drivers and school staff a tremendous debt of gratitude."
JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio noted that more than 12,000 JCPS teachers have scheduled to be vaccinated.
Pollio expects that 13,000 JCPS educators will be vaccinated by the end of the first week of February.
While there is no planned date to return to the classroom yet, Pollio is confident kids will be back in school this spring, even if it’s just for a short period of time.
“If we can get 50 days of school in or 40 days of school in, without a doubt it's worth every single one of those days to get our kids back in school and to be able to give them the supports that we need," Pollio said.
Pollio noted that support starts with the social emotional and mental health of students, then addressing academic issues, which could include summer learning.
Remarking on the gravity of the day, the JCPS Superintendent said it's one of the most important days of his career.
"This is a day I will never forget," said Pollio. "This will be an extraordinary accomplishment by state and local leaders who recognize the importance of the health and safety of teachers, bus drivers and school employees who make learning possible.”
Beshear noted that Kentucky is among only 19 states that continues to prioritize vaccinations for all K-12 staff members. In addition, Kentucky is the only state with plans to finish the first round of these vaccinations by the end of the first week in February.
Across Kentucky, more than 82,000 educators and support staff have signed up to get a vaccine.
Chief Health Strategist and Director of Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness, Dr. Sarah Moyer echoed sentiments on the significance of the day and said that getting kids back to school quickly and safely is vital to the health of the community.
“This pandemic has shown us the important role school plays in the mental health of our students, and our parents – how it helps keep families fed, women in the workforce, and reducing violence," said Moyer. "School is a vital part of the ecosystem of the health of our city.”
One of the 1,200 teachers vaccinated Friday was Tonya Moore. Moore is a special education teacher at J. B. Atkinson Academy in the Portland neighborhood.
“We can’t wait to be back in school... give that hope the students, the hope that they give us,” said Moore. “Getting the vaccine was an important and personal decision for me. My students need me, and the vaccine provides a pathway for me to safely return to my classroom.”
Alex Kennedy Elementary Principal, Patrick Sivori also got his vaccine. He misses all 317 of the students in his school and hopes they can return soon.
“I can see them on Google Meets, and on Teams but its still not the same impact,” Sivori said.
At this time, Jefferson Co. remains in Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine effort. This includes educators, first responders, corrections officers, essential utility workers, anyone age 70 or older.
Governor Beshear said Friday he believes with the clinics we have now, the state could be giving out 250,000 doses a week. The efficiency of our clinics is not the problem.
“Our one, and its really becoming our only issue, in the Commonwealth is supply from the federal government," Gov. Beshear said. "Something that while we have little control over, I'm raising as much noise as I can, I'm pushing as hard as I can.”
Next week, Kentucky will receive just over 56,000 doses.