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Wright legislators write Walz to address vaccine concerns impacting local schools

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

 

To the editor, 

Numerous concerns have been raised regarding the state’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations negatively impacting school districts across Wright County. As five state legislators representing portions of Wright County, we recently sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz to address the concerns impacting schools in our great communities. Below is the full copy of our message to him: 

Dear Governor Walz,  

The state’s approach to providing COVID-19 vaccinations for school staff in Wright County has been frustrating, unfair, and inconsistent. It has eroded trust in our schools and has damaged the strong and positive relationships our local school officials have worked tirelessly to nurture with staff, families, and communities. Sadly, the state’s failings on this issue are most detrimental to those who matter most: our children.  

Schools throughout the Wright County districts we represent report having shared similar experiences of the state failing on its promises to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. The state has told our school districts certain numbers of vaccinations would be provided to them in a given time frame. These districts have gone to great lengths to adjust schedules, source facilities and establish vaccine priority lists at the request of the state, only to have the state then reduce and, in at least some cases, ultimately cancel their vaccine allotments.  

Adding insult to injury, Wright County districts have been told vaccines initially designated for people in their communities are being allocated to other people in the metro area. We certainly hope this is not in fact true and ask for you to verify this information. This news is a great source of frustration to our constituents, especially those that have been serving students in-person since the start of the year while the majority of metro districts have been practicing distance learning and remain in that model.  

The Center for Disease Control and you, as our governor, have said students belong in school and we should prioritize in-person instruction. Local parents want this, too. Recent parent surveys in Wright County show an overwhelming majority of families of secondary students would send their child to school in an in-person model. We want to keep our students in-person, so why are our staff being penalized for having in-person school for our students? It seems that, just like school funding, our ZIP code dictates who gets the most funding and now vaccines.  

This issue has great impacts for Wright County. The lack of accurate information reflects negatively on all school districts due to no fault of their staff and undermines public and staff confidence in the process. It also unnecessarily consumes labor and valuable resources at a time when such resources are already stretched thin.  

Our school districts in Wright County have a disproportionate impact on their respective communities and serve as important economic centers in our region. For example, one of our school districts is the largest public employer in Wright County, with approximately 850 permanent staff and another 150 or more people directly connected to the school district for employment (i.e. bus drivers, coaches, etc.). An equitable and predictable distribution of vaccine is vital to effective planning, efficiency, and to minimize disruption to students and families.  

The bottom line is our school officials in Wright County are doing everything the state asked of them to prepare for vaccine administration. In fact, they have even gone above and beyond what has been expected of other sectors. School districts have kept our youngest learners in the classroom all year and protected their staff. They adhered to the Safe Learning Plan meticulously and kept case rates extremely low.  

We ask why school staff (and other educators who are in-person) in Wright County aren’t being prioritized for vaccines and instead are being diminished by the state’s actions? Our staff are on the front lines and yet they have been told some of the vaccines are going to districts who are solely in distance learning. This defies all logic and we collectively ask for your administration to verify if this in fact did happen. If so, we ask you remedy swiftly.  

Your role in this hardship and the inconsistent decisions being made in administering vaccines cannot be understated. We urge you to reconsider your actions and begin a new path toward communicating clear, consistent, and transparent guidelines for our school districts so that when local officials receive messages from the state, confidence can exist knowing promises made will be promises kept. Your prompt attention to honor the original commitment would go a long way toward restoring trust among the people of Wright County and throughout Minnesota.  

Sincerely, 

Rep. Eric Lucero 

Rep. Marion O’Neill

Rep. Joe McDonald 

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer 

Sen. Bruce Anderson 

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