School staff vaccinations near completion

  • A sign leading into the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Keene State College athletic facility. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/24/2021 4:37:00 PM

While most local school districts are reporting that the majority of their staff will have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by next week, some districts said they are still struggling to secure the shots for their employees.

Seventy percent of ConVal staff and faculty members had received at least one vaccine as of Monday afternoon, Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders said, and some were still waiting.

“We’re hoping that we’ll be up in the high eighties or low nineties,” by the time everyone’s had a chance to receive a vaccine, Rizzo Saunders said. ConVal staff and faculty can receive vaccines on their own or through the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network, she said, and the school had been contacting potentially qualified staff as they kept up with the state’s rollout so far. Staff members who opt into the vaccination program through the school district are receiving their shots at the mass vaccination center at Keene State College’s athletic facility, staffed by the National Guard and local volunteers. On Wednesday, Rizzo Saunders emailed staff with another 90 available slots for the Keene site, likely the last opportunity for staff to take advantage of the program in Keene.

Teachers at the Mason Elementary School are also well under way to being fully vaccinated, MES Principal and Mason School District Superintendent Kristen Kivela said Tuesday. About a third of the school’s 23 staff members have been fully vaccinated, and another third will be participating in a vaccination clinic in Merrimack this Saturday. Almost the entirety of the staff have already had at least one dose of the vaccine, and only three who have not started the process, Kivela said.

Kivela said the timing is perfect for the district to return to a five-day school schedule as of April 5.

The Mason School District is currently operating with its elementary schoolers in the building four days a week, with remote learning on Wednesdays. The School Board has been discussing returning to in-person learning all five days of the week earlier this month, but at the time, infections in the state were still high enough, and few enough teachers had started the vaccination process, that it was delayed until April.

“It was our hope that would give us enough time to vaccinate our teachers, and it has,” Kivela said.

The Mascenic School District has been struggling with getting its employees access to vaccinations, Superintendent Christine Martin said Tuesday.

“As soon as we heard public health networks were beginning to schedule vaccinations, we were in contact,” Martin said.

Martin said she has been communicating with the Monadnock Public Health Network since March 8, and surveyed staff members who wished to be vaccinated and submitted their information by March 12, but have not been part of a significant vaccination clinic so far.

On Saturday, 17 Mascenic High School staff members were able to be vaccinated in Keene, after the district was notified a limited number of spots were available. More spots may be available for staff members this weekend, Martin said, but she has been notified that it will not be enough to send a large number of staff.

Martin said she knows of at least five other staff members at Boynton Middle School who have started the vaccination process independently, and others that have signed up for appointments through the state.

“More power to them. I just want them vaccinated. It has been frustrating from our end,” Martin said.

Martin said that though the Mascenic School District is in Hillsborough County, it has been connected with Cheshire County for the purposes of vaccine distribution. She said the delays may be because of the size of the communities. “Because we’re tiny,  I feel like we’re the forgotten children. But the percentages of infection in New Ipswich have been fairly significant for a small town, and there isn’t any less need just because we’re small. It’s frustrating and very regretful, but it is what it is and we’ll work with it.”

Martin said she herself has been fully vaccinated, and has still maintained COVID-19 protocols to prevent spread, including masking, social distancing and limiting exposure to large groups of people. She said she will advise that the district continue those protocols until the state released advisories directing differently.

The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District is working with the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network to schedule vaccine appointments for the staff and its contractors, including bus drivers and food service employees.

“The goal was for the district to set up a process that was seamless as possible for staff. If they had an interest in getting a vaccine, we have been working to get them an appointment,” Communications Director Nick Handy wrote in an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Wednesday. “ We had almost 200 staff and contracted service providers tell us they were interested in receiving a vaccine. Of those, about 150 are working with the district to schedule their appointments with the GMPHN.”

About 100 Jaffrey-Rindge employees received their first dose of the vaccine through the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network on Saturday, and the remaining 50 are expected to receive their first vaccination later this week, Handy said.

Outside of the work the district has done to arrange vaccines thorough the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network, a further 57 staff members have notified the district that they have already received either both doses of the vaccine or have started the process.

In the Wilton-Lyndeborough district, while a relatively low number of staff had started the vaccination process as of Tuesday, Superintendent Bryan Lane said this weekend, the majority of his staff would be participating in a vaccination clinic in Merrimack – about 78 percent of the district’s 123 staff members.

A further 10 percent of staff have already been vaccinated or are in the process of being vaccinated independently, Lane said. About 3 percent of staff have notified the district they are not or can not receive the vaccine.

“If we can get close to 90 percent, then I think we’re in really good shape,” Lane said. “This includes coaches, subs, office staff, custodial staff, food service and our paraeducators. It’s a relief for them. Our students have been in school consistently five days a week since September, and so have our teachers. We’ve been able to keep the doors open almost every day because of them.”

Reporter Abbe Hamilton contributed to this story.


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