On Friday the Alpine Union School District will become the first in the county to vaccinate all of its teachers and staff, and it could be the school district in the state to do so.
The district’s superintendent, Dr. Rich Newman, said it was an unexpected opportunity that the he hopes will get the district's 1,600 students back to classroom fulltime, faster.
The clinic that administered the vaccines received more doses than it needed to service its Phase 1A population -- health care workers, those in long-term nursing facilities and -- so it reached out to its 1B group which includes Alpine Union schools.
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the clinic, a federally designated entity, received vaccine doses directly from the government and made its own decision to go make its vaccines available to its Phase 1B population.
Dr. Newman said the district rallied, and within 24 hours staff and educators began getting their first shots.
“We are unique. We do things differently. We work as a team,” Newman said.
When it comes to COVID-19, Newman’s district has had a lot of firsts. Now he wants to be the first to get students back in their classroom full time.
“We believe it is our moral responsibility when safe and possible to open our school,” he said. “A large part of that is our staff will feel safer. They will feel more comfortable on campus and have that comfort as we bring more students back on campus."
Of Alpine Union’s 199 educator's and staff, 175 are receiving the Pfizor vaccine. Boulder Oaks Elementary School teacher Nikki Woodward got her first shot Wednesday afternoon.
“The process itself was very straight forward. The shot didn't hurt. We were all amazed at how little the shot hurt,” Woodard said.
Woodward has an auto immune disorder. Getting the vaccine was a measured risk but she said so is teaching in person right now.
“Being in my classroom and not having to worry as much is definitely a huge weight off my shoulders,” she said.
The rest of the district employees who want it will get the vaccine Friday. Doctor Newman is among them, and he said it is appropriate that he is last in line.
Newman said his district has always been ahead of the curve. It was one of the first in the county to submit a reopening plan, and one of the first to implement COVID-19 testing for staff, students and the community, according to Newman.
Three weeks from now, after the staff’s second doses, Newman plans to petition the governor to let them reopen full time.
Newman hopes it will be a fairly easy sales pitch.
“I think we have set and example and a model for the state that you can open safely,” he said.
Around 80% of the district’s 1,600 students participate in a hybrid form of classroom and distance learning.