COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster called on all South Carolina school districts to prepare and submit their plans to get their teachers vaccinated against COVID-19 to the state’s education department.
But he did not move educators ahead of others in the next phase of the vaccine rollout. The governor said teachers in the state will have to continue to wait to be vaccinated.
McMaster said at a news conference Thursday morning that 37 out of the state’s 79 school districts have a plan in place on how they will ensure their teachers are vaccinated. He said 19 districts have not finalized their plan and that the 25 remaining districts either indicated they have no plan or have not provided any evidence that they are working on one.
Of the state’s 122,876 educators, 57,307 of them are teachers, and approximately 58% of them, or 32,265, he said, indicated they intend to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
South Carolina Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said she will be meeting with school districts and urging all of them to submit their rollout plans as soon as possible, adding the South Carolina Department of Education will work with districts and do all that they can to help them finalize plans.
McMaster said schools are safe and repeated that schools should be open for five days a week for in-person learning, and continued to prioritize people based on age.
Senate Republicans said they want to start vaccinating school staff as soon as possible and have introduced a joint resolution to move school staff to Phase 1A and have them vaccinated within 30 days, and by doing that, school staff will agree to teach in person for 5 days a week.
However, McMaster said that will bring down the whole roll out.
“I do oppose that because it is not based on the facts. It is a bad idea,” he said. “It would create expectations that can not be fulfilled, and it will result in taking vaccines away from people who die if they get the virus and who will not if they get the virus.”
McMaster announced on Wednesday that people 65 and older would be able to begin signing up for the vaccine on Monday. But teachers, education advocates and lawmakers are frustrated that teachers aren’t also being prioritized, especially as calls continue to return students to the classroom five days per week.
State senators, meanwhile, introduced a joint resolution to require the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to add certified teachers and support staff as “mission-critical workers” to the state’s Phase 1A classification. If DHEC were to add them to Phase 1A, those workers would become eligible for the vaccine with 30 days of the resolution.
People 65 and up were originally expected to be part of Phase 1C before Wednesday’s announcement that moved them up ahead of Phase 1B’s start.
Currently, teachers are expected to be included in the next phase of the state’s rollout, Phase 1B, but it is not clear exactly when those eligible for Phase 1B will be able to sign up.