- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Child care workers, who have provided in-person supervision for months, are criticizing the District’s new plan to vaccinate them after public school teachers, who are to return to classrooms Monday for the first time this school year.

Initially, all staff in K-12 educational facilities, including child care centers, were to become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine on Monday. But D.C. officials announced last week that child care workers would have to wait due to a shortage of vaccines.

Kristen Maxson, director of the Metropolitan Nursery School, responded by launching an online petition urging the city to make the vaccine available to those working in-person at child care facilities.

The petition notes that “many” child care centers, which are privately run, have been open throughout the school year while D.C. Public Schools teachers were instructing “virtual all fall and remain online.”

“Just as it is critical to vaccinate DCPS teachers so they will eventually return to the classroom, it is crucial — and equitable — to provide vaccinations for the childcare teachers and workers who have swallowed their fears, donned their PPE, and shown up at work day after day to provide crucial care for D.C.’s children,” the petition states.

As of Tuesday, the petition has received more than 3,000 of the 5,000 signatures sought by Ms. Maxson.

D.C. Council members echoed the petition’s sentiments in two letters to city officials.

Four lawmakers expressed concern about “the decision to de-prioritize child care providers” in a letter last week to D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt.

“Many have already been working in-person for months, unable to maintain social distance, work remotely, and support the remote schooling or caregiving of their own children and loved ones,” the letter states. “We cannot break out commitment to their safety amidst this public health emergency.”

The council members also pointed out that “most” of the city’s nearly 7,000 child care workers are “women of color working without union protections.”

Six lawmakers on Monday wrote to Wayne Turnage, deputy mayor for health and human services, insisting that child care workers and teachers need to be paid and treated “equitably.”

Dr. Nesbitt said Monday during a press conference that the city “simply [does] not have enough vaccines.”

“[E]ven with our best plans and us rolling out the phases and the tiers two weeks ago, we are still in a position where we cannot implement fully any tier of a specific phase,” the health director said.

Later Monday, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) sent an email update on the vaccine distribution plan to licensed child care facilities.

The agency asked the providers to fill out a spreadsheet with contact information for qualified workers which will be used to send vaccination registration links for appointments next month.

Council member Janeese Lewis George, Ward 4 Democrat, signed both letters to city officials and tweeted Monday that “this is a good first step toward protecting public health and equity.”

“Thanks to the childcare workers, parents, and advocates who made this first step possible,” Ms. Lewis George tweeted. “I’ll be following closely to see how many vaccine appointments are set aside for childcare workers and what date those appointments begin.”

An OSSE spokesperson said in an email Tuesday that private and independent school employees became eligible for the vaccine on Monday — the same day as public and charter school employees.

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