Teachers in Milwaukee, Racine prepare to get COVID-19 vaccine as eligibility opens Monday

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Over the next week, teachers across Wisconsin will start getting vaccinated.

Angelina Cruz, president of Racine Educators United, said she has an appointment scheduled for March 3. She said it's a step in the right direction to get teachers and students back in their buildings.

"It's something to feel good about finally," Cruz said. "I think it'll help a lot and I want to make it clear to everybody that there's no place teachers would rather be than in their classroom."

Wisconsin teachers become eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, March 1, the same day the Racine Unified School District is bringing back some students.

"Our teachers will be on teaching concurrently -- both in person and remote at the same time -- so that's a brand new thing. People are a little nervous about how that's gonna go," Cruz said.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, or DHS, said more than 700,000 people in Wisconsin become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, March 1. That includes educators and child care staff, as well as some essential workers and people who live in congregate settings.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk has said it could take four to six weeks for teachers to get the vaccine. 

Due to limited vaccine supply, Willems Van Dijk said DHS plans to rank school districts on who gets the vaccine first. It will use percentages of students of color and students who are on free and reduced lunch as factors.

Both Cruz and Amy Mizialko, president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, told CBS 58 they are on board with this plan.

"The pandemic has affected every American, but certainly those who have suffered the most are families living in poverty," Mizialko said. "We should prioritize families and students living in poverty who receive free and reduced lunch."

However, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers' union, worries DHS' ranking system will pit teachers against each other.

"We we start playing these games and rank who gets to go first and who gets to go second? It's just going to cause more confusion. There's too much confusion already," said Ron Martin, WEAC's president.

Mizialko said teachers in Milwaukee are preparing to get their first shot.

"Folks are happily reporting that they are scheduled as soon as March 1 and throughout next week," she said.

The Milwaukee Public Schools Board approved a plan that could put students back in class in April. Mizialko said she hopes that aligns with teachers' second doses but said there's no guarantee.

"There's no way to promise or predict that date because we don't know how long vaccinations will take," she said.

Starting March 8, the Milwaukee Health Department will hold mobile vaccine clinics at North Division and South Division high schools.

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