TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)— With coronavirus vaccines arriving in Kansas, state education officials are preparing for what that will mean for the upcoming school year.
“We know that the vaccine’s on the way and that’s encouraging, but likely many of our students will not receive those vaccinations early in the semester,” said Dr. Blake Flanders, President and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents.
President Flanders explained that most university students that are between 18 and 24 will most likely be later in line to receive the vaccine, because they’re in a lower-risk group, while some faculty may receive the vaccine earlier on.
Right now, the state’s vaccine distribution plan identifies people in education as essential workers. Teachers are expected to receive the vaccine as soon as late winter. But, the vaccine won’t be available for the general public until summer. And as higher education officials are getting ready for the Spring 2021 semester, they are expecting similar obstacles and uncertainty that came with the coronavirus pandemic in Fall.
“Many of those concerns are potential outbreaks,” Flanders said. “What we know is we could have changes. We don’t know what exactly the environment is going to be in the Spring.”
According to President Flanders, Kansas’ higher education facilities were tasked with sanitizing classrooms, and adhering to safety protocols, like social distancing, to ensure a safe return to the school environment for students and staff. The board plans on focusing on taking a similar approach in the Spring to make for a “safe” and “effective” return to school.
As of now, there are no vaccination requirements for universities in the state, but education officials are relying on people to opt in to taking the vaccine once it’s available.
“Right now, we’re encouraged that a vaccine is here for some, on the way for others,” Flanders said. “So, we’re hopeful that most will just voluntarily be vaccinated, so that we can really stop the spread of this virus.”
The state is receiving 23,750 vaccines from Pfizer this week, and are expecting more vaccines to come in the following weeks.