Participants in Press Conference, L to R. Superintendent Luke Hallmark, Marengo County; Superintendent Corey Jones, Greene County; Tanya Chestnut, State School Board; Superintendent Avis Williams, Selma City Schools; Superintendent Anthony Gardner, Sumter County, Terry Roller, State Department of Education; Superintendent Michael Ryan, Hale County and Superintendent Tim Thurman, Linden City Schools.
By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
In an impressive display of unity, Superintendents of Schools from Greene, Sumter, Hale, Marengo, Linden-City and Selma City school systems, held a joint press conference on August 4th, to “strongly encourage” parents to vaccinate their children, 12 and older, for the COVID- 19 virus. The press conference was held at the Greene County Board of Education. Dr. Corey Jones, Greene County Superintendent read a joint statement and took questions from the TV and newspaper outlets present.The joint statement said in part,” We have gathered to speak with one voice encouraging our respective communities, across the Black Belt Region, to take the time to help ensure that we can open schools safely by strongly recommending that they receive the COVID-19 vaccination and ensuring that their children 12 years and older receive the vaccination. “We are ensuring that all COVID-19 mitigating measures are in place, including masking, in each of the districts represented today. We will do everything in our powers to protect our children and personnel. “Parents we need you to join us in this effort to protect your child/children by vaccinating your children, 12 and older, and encouraging all adults in your household to be vaccinated. “Parents if you have not received the COVID-19 vaccination or vaccinated your children, now is the time to act. We thank you for entrusting us with educating your children and we look forward to a safe and successful school year.” Demeta Brown, with the West Central District of the Alabama Department of Public Health, also spoke at the press conference and said she was scheduling vaccination and testing clinics in each of the school systems to facilitate school staff and children getting the lifesaving vaccination for the virus. Several of the Superintendents said they had already sponsored health fairs and other events to get students over 12 vaccinated, especially sports teams, vaccinated. All of the Superintendents said they would schedule clinics at the schools for vaccinations but that they needed parents to be aware that they will have to sign consent forms for their children to be vaccinated. Tonya Chestnut, State School Board member that represents many of the Black Belt counties said, “We must keep our students and school personnel safe and secure. Many of our people already have high risk health issues and this coronavirus is a big threat to the health of the entire Black Belt community. I support the efforts to vaccinate everyone who is eligible and willing to take the shots.” Terry Roller with the Alabama State Department of Education echoed the comments of others in supporting the joint statement of the School Superintendents supporting vaccination. He said, “Mask-up, Vax-up and Stay at a safe distance from others.” Dr. Corey Jones and others noted the increasing transmission of the delta variant of the virus in Alabama and the Black Belt. The delta variant has caused a steady rise in virus cases and hospitalizations across the state, especially and primarily among unvaccinated people, during the past thirty days since the July 4th holiday. This increasing problem with the delta variant comes in conjunction with the re-opening of schools for in-class education. “We are doing everything we can to clean and sanitize the schools. We will keep students at a safe distance from each other with masks, but it is up to the parents and community to protect us by getting vaccinated and allowing all children, over 12 years old, to also be vaccinated,” stated Jones in closing the press conference.