After months of uncertainty and anticipation, teachers, childcare workers, and other school staff are finally nearing the top of the list to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
School and childcare staff are included in what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has deemed group 1b on the vaccination priority list, behind healthcare personnel, long-term care facility residents, and people aged 65 and up in group 1a.
As of March 4, 18.5% of Dane County residents had received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, It is reported that roughly 68% of people aged 65 or older in Dane County had been vaccinated as of March 4, according to Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC).
It was initially anticipated that group 1b would be able to sign up for the vaccination as early as March 1, but a shortage in vaccine supply pushed that date back.
On March 9, Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) will commence K-12 staff and child care vaccine distribution at the Alliant Energy Center, with PHMDC receiving at least 7,900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
With the vaccination on the horizon for Dane County teachers, the McFarland and Monona Grove school districts have begun preparations for the rollout.
McFarland School District
The McFarland School District plans on hosting its own vaccination clinic on district property on March 19 for the first dose, and April 16 for the second dose.
SSM Health will provide the vaccine supply, at which point district nurses, with the help of some outside nurses, will distribute the vaccine to those who have signed up.
“This is pending that we receive the doses of the vaccine that we need, and I’m hopeful that we will,” said Lauren Arango, director of student services at McFarland.
On March 1, Arango reported a total of approximately 400 faculty members having signed up to receive the vaccine from the school. According to Arango, 90 faculty members had already received the vaccine as of March 1, presumably because they fall into a category of group 1a.
She also said the number of faculty signed up to receive the vaccine from the school has tapered off a bit as some staff make appointments to receive their vaccination elsewhere.
The district is partnering with staff at Nelson’s Bus Company, Child Life Ministries, Ginger Bread House Preschool, Little Spartans, and the McFarland Youth Center to offer the vaccine to them as well.
Since a phased process of reopening McFarland schools began last September, the district has seen a fluctuation in positive COVID-19 cases across its schools.
At a March 1 school board meeting, Arango reported a total of 31 positive cases of COVID-19 within the district since the school year began.
21 of those were student cases, with 12 occurring at Conrad Elvehjem Primary School, one at Waubesa Intermediate School, one at Indian Mound Middle School, and seven at McFarland High School.
The remaining 10 cases were from teachers, six of which occurred at McFarland High School, two at Indian Mound Middle School, one at Waubesa Intermediate School, and one at Conrad Elvehjem Primary school.
Arango did confirm that, of the 31 positive cases, no cross contamination occurred between buildings. As of March 1, there were no active cases of the virus within the district.
Monona Grove School District
The Monona Grove School District will not be hosting its own vaccination site, but is encouraging staff to sign up for the vaccine through PHMDC and the Alliant Energy Center.
Superintendent Dan Olson said the timeline for getting every Monona Grove staff member vaccinated will depend on supply.
“It’s all going to depend on the supply,” Olson said. “My understanding is that public health is using a randomization process where, depending on how many doses they have available each weekend, they will contact that many educators around the county that they can go ahead and schedule an appointment, and they’ll continue to do that as many weekends as it takes until they get everyone through.”
Olson said the district is not keeping track of how many teachers sign up for the vaccine and how many opt not to.
Monona Grove schools began the reopening process in January of this year, after shutting down last March as a COVID-19 precaution. Since January, grades 4k through second grade have been back in physical schools, followed by grades three to five in February. Middle and high school students and staff will return on March 15.
There was at least one reported case of COVID-19 within the district following the first day of school reopening in January.