Mayor Peduto says remote learning has shined a light on educational disparities for students of color.

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says he wants to get children physically back in the classroom, and because of that, he is asking the governor to prioritize teachers in the line to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

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Peduto sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf today asking that the Pennsylvania Department of Health make teachers a high priority for getting the vaccine.

He says remote learning has shined a light on educational disparities for students of color.

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Just two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Public School Board decided to push back the start of in-person learning once again.

In the letter, Peduto says, “Promoting vaccines for teachers would help to speed up the safe return to school, would ensure that all students receive the focused academic support that they need to succeed.”

In addition, Peduto is also offering the city’s recreation and senior centers as sites for vaccine distribution to teachers. He says staff members with the city could also help in working with hospitals and public safety.

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Read the full letter here:

Dear Governor Wolf,

As our Commonwealth recovers from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, I am writing to encourage you to take the necessary steps to ensure that teachers can be vaccinated immediately. This measure would help to create a safer environment for students, many of whom have fallen behind academically while attempting to shift to at-home learning, expedite the safe reopening of schools, and alleviate the concerns of teachers who are apprehensive about returning to unsafe conditions. The City of Pittsburgh stands ready to assist the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other partners with the distribution of vaccines to educators in our community.

The change to virtual learning has greatly impacted students and families, forcing them to scramble to secure the child care options, technology, and other supports needed to learn at home. This crisis has shined a light on the inequities of our society, and unfortunately, remote learning has exacerbated academic disparities for students and families of color. Promoting vaccines for teachers would help to speed up the safe return to school, would ensure that all students receive the focused academic support that they need to succeed, and would be aligned with your administration’s commitment to an equitable response to the pandemic.

Even with school reopening guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prioritizing access to the vaccine for educators remains a critical tool to ensure that teachers feel genuinely safe in the classroom, students can learn successfully, and families feel comfortable returning their children to in-person learning environments. Teachers are most effective when they feel comfortable, and providing teachers with rapid access to vaccines would create a healthier setting for them and the students who learn from them. If your administration is willing to expedite the distribution of vaccines to educators, the City of Pittsburgh can provide staff support as needed, coordinate with local hospitals and public safety professionals, and offer our neighborhood recreation and senior centers as community-based vaccine distribution sites.

Again, I encourage you to offer immediate access to vaccines for teachers. This action would promote the safe reopening of schools, reduce stress for parents and families, improve all students’ academic performance, and mitigate teachers’ apprehension about unsafe working conditions. The City is willing and able to assist your administration with this important endeavor. Thank you for your consideration and for your leadership throughout this global crisis.

Sincerely,
William Peduto
Mayor of Pittsburgh

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Students in Pittsburgh Public Schools have been virtual since the pandemic began heavily impacting the United States last March.