As president of the Helena Education Association, I am writing on behalf of our board of directors and our 700-plus members. Teachers in the Helena School District were disappointed and distressed to learn that Gov. Gianforte is choosing not to follow the CDC guidelines on having educators and educational support professionals (ESPs) in Tier 1B for obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine. The governor has expressed interest in “opening the economy.” What better way to open the economy than to safely open our schools? We need to have our educators and ESPs vaccinated as soon as possible. Here in the Helena School District, we had to close our high schools for two weeks in November/December — not due to COVID outbreaks — instead so many of our teachers were under quarantine orders that there were not enough staff members and guest teachers to cover our in-person classes. The COVID numbers in our community are still very high, and we will continue to struggle to safely staff our schools until our staff members are vaccinated. As essential workers we are critical to reopening the economy. I urge Gov. Gianforte to review and revise his vaccination implementation plan and allow school staff members to return to Tier 1B.