Some teachers and unions react to COVID-19 vaccination plan

Next phase of vaccines

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis said teachers and law enforcement officers age 50 and older will have access to COVID-19 vaccine. This will happen at four federally supported vaccination sites opening in the state in the coming days. However, some teachers say that’s not enough.

One of those teachers is Christy Karwatt. She decided to take a leave of absence last year. “I still felt that it will be unsafe,” she said.

Karwatt is a social studies teacher at Sarasota High School. While it was a tough decision, she says it was for her own good.

“I think some people think I’m going overboard a little bit, I haven’t been to a restaurant since before March of last year,” she said.

The reason, she explains, is that she wants to keep her family safe. Now, she spends time fixing her home, doing yoga, and prepping kids for the SATs virtually. However, going back to the classroom is out of the question until every teacher and staff gets the shot.

“I appreciate my colleagues so much because the stress for them now is just tremendous,” she said.

After Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that teachers over 50 will be able to get the vaccine at one of the four FEMA sites, teacher unions have voiced their gratitude and concern. The closest one to the Suncoast is in Tampa.

“I don’t think a lot of them will drive to Tampa,” said Patricia Gardner, president of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association. “We need to get them in schools with school nurses. I think we have school nurses at every school.”

“We have a lot of high-risk teachers who are back in the classroom, who are not over 50. We’re hoping we will get relief,” said Pat Barber, president of the Manatee Education Association.

A relief Karwatt hopes comes soon, so she can be back in the place she loves -- the classroom. “I can’t wait to get back to normal,” she said.

The federally supported sites are:

  • Tampa Greyhound Track, 755 E. Waters Ave., Tampa, FL 33604
  • Valencia College – West Campus, 1800 S. Kirkman Road, Orlando, FL 32811
  • Gateway Mall 5200 Norwood Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32208
  • Miami Dade Community College (North Campus), 11380 NW 27th Ave., Miami, FL 33167

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