State’s top educator says he wants kids back in the classroom by next year

ATLANTA — Georgia’s top education official says Thursday that the state will get kids back in school soon and he thinks teachers and school staff getting vaccinated is the path to get there.

Many teachers told Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes that they are ready to roll up their sleeves right now, but thousands in the state are still skeptical or undecided.

“The expectation is that we can move into more of a face-to-face setting,” Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods said.

Woods made it clear on a Zoom call Thursday with several superintendents across Georgia, that the goal is to have as many teachers and school staff vaccinated as possible over the next few weeks.

He said he wants all students back in classrooms next year.

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Several teachers across the state already have appointments to get vaccinated on the day they’re eligible, which is Monday.

“Here we’re looking at we can make a significant dent in this last third of the school year, and so, I’m excited about that,” Woods said.

Some teachers told Fernandes that they are questioning why they aren’t all getting the same brand of vaccine.

Ryan Loke with Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said they’re distributing what they can get their hands on.

“At this point all three vaccine candidates do the same thing. They prevent severe hospitalization, they prevent death and that’s ultimately the purpose of the vaccine. So there shouldn’t be really any issues from a workforce perspective saying, ‘Hey, folks down in south Georgia got Johnson & Johnson, but I got Pfizer,’” Loke said.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said 66% of APS employees want to be vaccinated and she’s still trying to reach thousands of employees who are still undecided.

“It’s our intent to aggressively push out in the space of educating because of what our numbers tell us relative to those who are opting in, and those who are not yet, have not yet made a decision,” Herring said.