Pine Belt schools prepare to connect teachers to vaccines

Pine Belt schools prepare to connect teachers to vaccines

FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - There are two different vaccines being administered across the country in the fight against COVID-19.

School districts in the Pine Belt are preparing to offer a dose to their teachers.

Teachers are included in Phase “1b2” of vaccine distribution, meaning they are expected to get their first dose in January or February.

Superintendents in Petal and Forrest County are currently working on plans to provide easy access to the vaccine for their hardworking teachers.

“Right now, we’re in the process, we’ll be sending out a survey to see how many teachers are going to want the vaccine in order for us to best prepare to provide that in the district,” Petal School District Superintendent Dr. Matt Dillon says,

Once the district knows when the doses will be allowed for teachers, they plan to offer time slots working with the Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative.

“We have our own SeMRI clinic, Panther Clinic, on our campus. We’re very blessed to have access to medical care on the Petal School District campus. So with that, we’re working with those individuals, the healthcare providers at SeMRI to determine when, the time frame when we can get it and how that’s going to look,” Dillon said.

Forrest County School District Superintendent Brian Freeman echoes Dillon, saying they are also working with SeMRI to set up specific clinic locations and times dedicated to their teachers.

“We’re going to work with SeMRI to work on a schedule and work on what teachers would go where. It’s going to take a whole lot of coordination, but we’re certainly not going to just say, ‘It’s available, teachers. Go get it.’ We’re going to work with them to line everything else together so this goes as smoothly and seamlessly as possible,” said Freeman.

Petal, Forrest County and Hattiesburg school districts are not requiring teachers to get vaccinated. The choice is up to the teachers.

In a statement, Hattiesburg Public School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Williams said, “The Hattiesburg Public School District continues to keep a close eye on the rapid updates regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. At this time, the district does not intend to require employees to obtain the vaccine. However, being that the vaccine is not a requirement for our staff, we encourage all employees to get the vaccine as soon as they become available. We will continue to keep our teachers, staff, students, and families updated as more information becomes available from the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health.

Superintendents offered their thanks to front-line healthcare workers first and foremost. They added that their teachers have worked hard to adjust and continue teaching safely in the past year.

“Our teachers are on the front lines. Our teachers are out there working and doing things on a daily basis to provide an education,” said Dillon.

“You can’t say enough about what they have done. Really. You can’t even measure how important and successful those teachers have been for our district,” said Freeman.

The superintendents say they are still waiting to hear the specific dates the vaccine will be available for teachers from the state department of health. In the meantime, they will see who’s interested and will contact clinic sites to prepare.

Copyright 2021 WDAM. All rights reserved.