FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As Indiana waits for the emergency approval of the COVID-19 vaccine, Indiana 3rd District Representative Jim Banks is fighting for teachers to be a priority.

In a statement emailed to WANE 15, Rep. Banks said that when the time comes he agrees health care workers should have the option to be vaccinated first, but it’s equally important for public school teachers, and should be second in line, so schools can stay open.

“I have been leading the fight to keep our schools open and to keep our kids in the classroom where they belong and where they have the best shot at getting the best education possible,” Congressman Banks said.

Andra Kosmoski, President of East Allen Educators Association agreed that if teachers are first in line to receive the vaccination, it will help with keeping schools open.

“Believe it or not, that is one of the few things I do agree with Representative Banks about. The fact that teachers are essential workers. Essential workers need to be prioritized for the vaccination,” said Kosmoski.

“We can’t be in the classroom with the kids and being exposed by the kids, we can’t be exposed out in the community and bringing it back into the classrooms.”

In the past, Banks has been vocal on why he thinks it’s important to keep students in the classroom. He told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee that he is proud that in Northeast Indiana there was not a single school district in the region that did not reopen.

He added that 35% of children who receive mental health care rely on services from the schools and remote learning has left many students feeling isolated without mental health care.

“The mental health impact of that is real and we have to recognize that and it should be a motivation for all of us to do everything we can to keep our classrooms open,” Rep. Banks said.

Indiana still hasn’t announced who will be priority after healthcare workers, but Congressman Banks said he wrote letters to Governor Eric Holcomb and those who make this decision in hopes that teachers are in front of the line for the vaccination.