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Shelby County Schools' Union readies as educators are bumped up in COVID-19 vaccine priority list

The Memphis-Shelby County Education Association is preparing for when educators and staff can get vaccinated.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The executive director of the largest educator union in Tennessee said teachers should be made a priority in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout as he takes steps to ready his members.

In Tennessee, educators were pushed higher up on the priority list for vaccinations to group "1b" which was to the liking of Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (M-SCEA) Executive Director Keith Williams.

"I think teachers should be a priority number one and not just teachers but everybody," Williams said.

The Shelby County School District started the spring 2021 school year again virtually. The earliest potential return to the classroom date for the district could be February 8 for PRE-K to 5th grade and Feb. 22 for the rest of students, although it is subject to change.

"Talking about children and talking about whether they're coming into the building or not, whether they're going to stay. I just don't know," Williams said. "The safety, being said, we want to be safe. We want to do it right. We want to be protected and I think that's a great thing."

M-SCEA has more than 4,000 union members, Williams said. At the beginning of next week, they intend to have a virtual meeting with the Shelby County Health Dept. to go over the vaccine and cover any concerns by members. 

Williams said his biggest concern is preparing teachers to go with facts over fear and to take the vaccine.

 “Having them be able to ask questions and get answers from the health department prior so that they are clear on what they’re getting," he said.

At that meeting, Williams said they expect to have a better timetable of when educators can start to receive the vaccine.

“I think that will ease a lot of fears, a lot of bad, a lot of contentment," Williams said. "People will know that at least they are protected to the degree that they can be and the district, the health department is considering that. That delays a lot of the fears in the mind of teachers.”

According to Williams, the M-SCEA building, located a block away from the district's headquarters, will be looked at as a potential vaccination site for educators through the health dept.

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