ATLANTA - More than a dozen school board members across metro Atlanta sent a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp asking him to take a number of steps to make Georgia schools safer for teachers and staff. The board members said they united to send the letter because teachers across the state are struggling.
"If we're going to ask our educators to be superheroes, we have to stop snatching their cape," said Cobb County School Board member Dr. Jaha Howard.
The letter to Gov. Kemp talks about teachers' lives lost due to COVID-19 and the mental and emotional trauma educators are going through. It is signed by 13 school board members from six different school districts. They're calling on the governor to take action. They want medical-grade masks for all educators and staff.
"If we're really bent on having kids face to face let's have high-quality masks," said Howard.
They also want educators to get priority when it comes to the vaccine. Atlanta Public Schools students are going back to the classroom for the first time in almost 300 days. Board member Jason Esteves said teachers need to be safe.
"The state has indicated teachers won't be vaccinated until late February or later depending on how things go. I find that to be unacceptable, we need teachers vaccinated now," said Esteves.
"There's no doubt that education and educators are one of the top priorities of this administration. That's why the governor supported a $1,000 supplement payment to all school employees," said Cody Hall the Director of Communications for the Governor's Office.
The governor's office said they've already given school districts in the state 80 million masks and while they believe educators are essential workers, at this point there's not enough vaccine to go around. They're still trying to get to all healthcare workers and those over 65.
"As soon as we're able to expand the criteria, and we're given, more supplies we'll absolutely do that for our educators and school staff," said Hall.
In Clayton County, where schools are still all virtual, Board Member Jasmine Bowles said it's not enough.
"If the governor's office and the powers that be say masks are enough and vaccinations are coming then so be it, but I'm personally serving 55,000 scholars who are still out of school," said Bowles.
The letter also asks the governor to collect and review anonymous COVID-related feedback from public education staff. Board members said school employees are afraid to voice their concerns believing it could affect their jobs.
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