Portland Public Schools' central administration staff become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 18, according to school district documents.
That includes Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero and his deputies, along with a wide range of tech staff, communications officials and clerical staff.
But after WW inquired about the eligibility this afternoon, Gov. Kate Brown said it was an error and told school administrators not to seek vaccinations.
Until Brown responded, school district officials were taking a hands-off approach. In a Feb. 17 email to staff, the district was asking—but not requiring—central administration staff to wait for teachers to be vaccinated before getting in line.
"We would like to ask central office staff and other colleagues who do not typically work directly with students to hold off trying to secure an appointment tomorrow and help protect appointment slots for high school staff, who are also part of Wave 4," a Feb. 17 email to staff reads.
But teachers are not the only ones still waiting for COVID-19 vaccines. Most Oregonians under 80, including even those with health risks, are still waiting their turn.
PPS officials said they didn't make the decision about who was eligible and that the Oregon Health Authority was the one to determine the policy and which wave school administrators should be in. (There are four waves for educators, the last of which begins tomorrow, Feb. 18.)
"We just follow the schedule as it's released to us," says district spokeswoman Karen Werstein.
But the governor's office said PPS was making a mistake and said administrative staff that do not work with students should not make an appointment.
"The governor's priority is for educators, school-based staff, and school district staff who work with or around students to be vaccinated," says spokesman Charles Boyle. "We have made clear to school districts that employees with no student contact should not be scheduling appointments for vaccinations. Some central administrative staff do sometimes work in schools and come into contact with students, but others do not—those who do not work in schools with students should not make appointments at this time."
Late Feb. 17, OHA did not have an immediate comment, but a spokesman said the agency would provide more information in the morning.
PPS board member Julia Brim-Edwards called on the district to postpone the vaccination of central administration staff.
"From my perspective, administrative staff or staff who are not working with students and don't meet other specific criteria should wait their turn in line for the vaccine, which may be later this spring or summer," she says.
"I don't think the state intended to move non-school staff to the front of the line. I've shared that point of view with district leadership and hope PPS clarifies it is important that school staff, seniors, essential workers, BIPOC communities, essential workers, vaccine distribution teams, and those with underlying health conditions be prioritized for those hard-to-get early vaccine appointments."