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Nearly 3,000 Educators Vaccinated A Month Before Some PPS Students Are To Return

All Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers are expected to return to classrooms next month. Now a large percentage of employees have received a COVID-19 vaccine, giving them an extra layer of protection.

About 1,400 teachers and supports staff were scheduled to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Heinz Field Thursday. Another 1,400 were to receive the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine at Obama High School in East Liberty. The district employs 4,000 people, including 2,100 teachers.

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet called Thursday a game changer.

“A little burden has been lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “I still got some, but this helps.”

Less than one quarter of Pittsburgh Public Schools students will return to their classrooms April 6. Those who received the Pfizer vaccine Thursday were scheduled to receive the second dose April 1. Students were put into four categories based on level of need and progress made during remote learning. More than 10,000 students are in categories 1 and 2 and have shown "progress" during the past year. The district has not identified a return to in-person date for those students. 

"Plans for support categories 1 and 2 will be evaluated based on social distancing guidelines and the number of families who decide to remain in remote instruction," according to the district. 

Giant Eagle Chief Pandemic Officer Vic Vercammen said the CDC allocated additional vaccines this month specifically for educators. He said while he understands frustrations that teachers received the Pfizer vaccines before those in phase 1a of the rollout, “the reality is this is running in addition to, not instead of.”

The clinic was intended to be a two-day event for PPS teachers, but Vercammen said the event would be completed Thursday. According to Giant Eagle, it will have more doses Monday and Tuesday for area educators.