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Pittsburgh teachers union: staff won’t return to classroom until members vaccinated

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Public Schools remain closed, and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers said they will stay that way until members can get vaccinated.

“Our teachers are very anxious to get back. We know what’s best for kids,” said federal president Nina Esposito-Visgitis.

>>>RELATED: Pittsburgh Public Schools delays return to in-person classes until April 6

Esposito-Visgitis said since the school board delayed in-person learning until April, she’s been working overtime to find a way to vaccinate the union’s nearly 3,000 members.

“We are going to state legislators to have them get involved,” she said. “Gov. Tom Wolf was not very helpful, which was very disheartening to me because we are trying to find other avenues now to get the vaccine.”

Pennsylvania is still in Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan. Teachers are slated to be in the next phase. The CDC released a list of recommendations for school officials to follow if they decide to reopen, including wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand-washing. Earlier in the week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said it was not necessary for all educators to get the vaccine to resume in-person learning.

Esposito-Visgitis said without the vaccine, teachers are not comfortable going back.

“We should try to get teachers vaccinated as best we can, but that should not be an obstacle to in-person learning,” said infectious disease physician Dr. Amesh Adalja. “We have the scientific data to support in-person learning, especially when it gets to below the high school level. So there is no excuse other than a political one to not have children in class, learning.”

Adalja said there’s no reason to not have in-person learning.

Esposito-Visgitis said some of the CDC’s recommendations are not possible because some of the district’s buildings are almost 90 years old.