As most Illinois schools are 100% remote or in a hybrid model, some teachers reluctant to get COVID-19 vaccination

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(The Center Square) – As Illinois goes through Phase 1B of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, some educators are refusing to roll up their sleeves to receive their first dose.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said publicly that he is worried some, Black Illinoisans especially, may be resistant toward the public health benefits of getting vaccinated for the virus.

Kankakee schools superintendent Genevra Walters said she is surprised at how many school employees will pass on the shot.

“We have about 700 staff members,” Walters said. “Five-hundred and sixteen responded to a survey with half saying they would take it and half said they would not.”

Walters said it is a cultural thing, and points to the federal Tuskegee syphilis experiments between the 1930s and 1970s in which the government enrolled a group of 600 Black men without informing them about the nature of the study and withheld treatments that could have cured their illnesses.

Other school districts are forging ahead with teacher vaccination plans. About half the teachers and staff in District 87 in Bloomington have been vaccinated, and Superintendent Barry Reilly hopes to have the remainder vaccinated by the end of February.

Reilly told the school board last week that the district is looking for ways to increase in-person instruction time for some students.

“We are working on special education students, looking at having more of our special education students coming back for more days,” Reilly said. “We’re looking at our English language learners coming back for more days and kids who might really be struggling with remote learning.”

Four vaccination sites solely for Chicago school employees were set to open Monday in an effort to get classrooms back open. The teachers union and the school district has been in a battle over when to reopen classrooms.

In accordance with the framework approved under an agreement that brought an end to the dispute, pre-K and cluster program students and teachers returned to the classroom last week. Elementary students and staff are expected to return to school buildings in the coming weeks.

While teachers and support staff have been eligible to receive a vaccination in Illinois since Jan. 25, teachers in the neighboring states of Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin are still not eligible.

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