York County schools in dark about teacher vaccinations

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Nurse Coralie Ferron prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Le Cannet, southern France, Thursday Jan. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Nearly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic turned public education on its ear, and about two months after the first U.S. vaccine was administered, several York County school districts say they're in the dark about when their staffs will get the shots. 

Officials from at least seven local school districts said they have received little or no word from state officials so far about the vaccine.

Northern York County School District Superintendent Steven Kirkpatrick said a vaccination provider estimated educators wouldn't have access to the vaccine until about April 1. 

York Suburban School District appears to be the only district in the county that is making any progress toward securing the vaccine. Superintendent Timothy Williams said during a board meeting this month that he is working with a local pharmacy company to get the vaccine distributed to staff members. 

Williams would not mention the name of the company at the meeting, and he said he did not know when the district would receive the vaccine. A York Suburban official said Tuesday that there are no updates on the process. 

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Central York spokesperson Julie Randall Romig said WellSpan Health officials advised the district to have employees create accounts on the health care system's website. She said staffers can be notified through their accounts about when they can access the vaccine.

Cynthia Greco, spokesperson for the West York School District, said her district received the same information from WellSpan.

Romig said to her knowledge, school districts are not responsible for coordinating vaccine distribution for staff. Since receiving the information from WellSpan, she said, the district hasn't heard any new information about when the vaccine will be available. 

Pennsylvania is currently in phase 1A of its vaccine distribution plan, which allows people 65 and older, health care personnel, long-term care facility residents and people with high-risk medical conditions to get vaccinated.

Educators can access the vaccine in phase 1B. Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf, said the timing for phase 1B has been determined but did not specify the schedule. 

Last week, state education advocacy groups pushed Wolf to prioritize getting the COVID-19 vaccine to teachers. Kensinger said the administration is not changing its schedule and is working to prioritize health care workers and individuals vulnerable to serious illness, in line with recommendations from the CDC.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance  noting that in-person instruction can resume safely in schools with masks, social distancing and other precautions. Vaccinations were not noted as a prerequisite for reopening. 

Most York County schools are open with some form of in-person instruction, but some district officials are hesitant to expand reopening without a vaccine available. Williams said during the Feb. 8 board meeting that he does not want to reopen York Suburban's middle school or high school any further if staff members cannot access a vaccine.