By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Nearly 60 community organizations, cities, and churches have signed on to a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, urging them to immediately vaccinate teachers so Los Angeles schools can reopen safely.

The letter is the latest volley in Superintendent Austin Beutner’s campaign to get teachers and school employees moved to the front of the line of the state’s vaccination schedule. Beutner and UTLA officials say schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in the state, will be able to reopen sooner if teachers are vaccinated.

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“Community leaders agree, we need to vaccinate school principals and bus drivers, teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians and librarians so we can reopen schools,” Beutner said in a statement.

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Public health officials are increasingly of the opinion that schools that follow masking and social distancing guidelines can reopen without first vaccinating teachers, and indeed, many neighboring districts have done so for elementary school students. However, LAUSD campuses also serve many of the areas hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Prioritizing vaccines for those who work in schools is a matter of equity for public school students in the communities we serve,” the letter said. “More than 80% of families served by LA Unified live in poverty; 83% are Black and Latino residents. The virus is having a disproportionate impact on low-income communities of color.”

And even though young children in general become infected with COVID-19 at lower rates and recover more easily and quickly than adults, the letter suggests LAUSD students don’t have that luxury.

“Age-adjusted deaths due to COVID-19 in the lowest-income areas are nearly three and a half times that of more affluent areas,” according to the letter. “School-based testing of children in December by LA Unified showed that one in three children in lowest-income areas tested positive, compared to one in 25 in more affluent areas.”

The letter went on to point out that vaccinations were being made available to education and childcare workers in Riverside, and Long Beach started vaccinating school employees last month, and that New York and Kansas City were also starting to distribute vaccines to its school workers.

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“A clearly articulated plan to provide vaccinations to school staff in the nation’s second largest school district can be a model for other school districts around the country,” the letter said.