Hundreds of Windsor educators today received their first dose of Moderna’s COVID vaccine at Windsor High School, where the gymnasium was converted into a daylong clinic, and the feeling of relief and excitement was palpable.
Among those getting their first shot was kindergarten teacher and 2021 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Rochelle Brown (pictured at right).
“Today I feel a huge sense of relief,” she said. “Since the beginning of the school year, teachers have had a lot of ‘what ifs’: ‘What if I’m unknowingly infected and pass that illness onto my students?’ ‘What if one of my colleagues is ill?’ Having this vaccine today means we’re all a little bit safer, and I know that I’m not the only one feeling that sense of relief. Also, getting this vaccine means that if we are exposed to the coronavirus, we aren’t going to have to quarantine and take time away from our students—and that is so important. It’s vital that students are able to remain in the building with us so that they can get the best educational experience.”
The concept of parallel vaccination clinics held within or near schools was first proposed—and strongly encouraged—by CEA in talks with the governor and public health officials during the months leading up to this phase of the vaccine rollout.
“School-based clinics make it convenient for teachers and other school staff to receive the vaccine without the scheduling and logistical challenges others have faced during the vaccine rollout,” said CEA President Jeff Leake.
Leighann Tyson, a high school special education alternative teacher agreed. “I have several eligible friends who are still struggling to find a vaccine location and appointment. With our school-based clinic, I didn’t have that burden. I didn’t have to spend hours online.”
Sage Park Middle School seventh-grade science teacher Mark Yocius, a 12-year veteran teacher with a four-month-old child at home, echoed Tyson’s sentiment. “I definitely appreciate what our union has done for us, making the process so easy. I also think having their teachers vaccinated gives our students some peace of mind.”
Windsor High School Spanish teacher and building representative David Schultz, put it this way: “I am in over my head with teaching and school responsibilities, so to be able to come right into the gym today, right in the school where I teach, and have my COVID vaccine taken care of with little or no preparation—that’s incredibly important. It’s easy to forget our priorities, but this—our health and the safety of our schools—is the highest priority. The presence of our statewide teachers union pushing for these vaccines and these clinics is truly appreciated.”
Windsor Education Association (WEA) Co-President Jennifer Delskey, a second-grade teacher at Poquonock School and the mother of two students at Windsor High School, was happy to roll up her sleeve today and see so many familiar faces everywhere she turned.
“I am very excited for so many reasons. Today’s clinic symbolizes hope. This, for me—as a teacher and a parent—is a step to get back to normalcy. We’ve missed our students. We hate having to shut down buildings because teachers are getting quarantined, and this is just that next step forward to be able to give the kids what they need—which is their schools back and their teachers back. I have a high school senior at home who is thrilled to be back at school.”
The school-based model, she added, made everything seamless. “Just the fact that this is a huge clinic style and that 400 of our teachers in one day are able to go to one central location and be able to do this with their colleagues is amazing. I saw a mother and daughter together. It’s a great feeling everybody has right now that they’re able to do this and not have to go through VAMS and drive miles or wait months to get an appointment. It’s a big relief for so many of us.”
Hundreds more Windsor teachers and school staff are scheduled to receive their first dose next Wednesday, March 10.
Delskey explained that the clinics would not have been possible without the efforts of the WEA, CEA, and an open line of communication with district administrators.“WEA has had a seat at the table in this process, and nothing has ever been off the table.” Now in her second year as union president, she said, “I’m a big believer in problem-solving and relationship-building with WEA, CEA, and administration. Sometimes our conversations are difficult, but there is laughter, and there is respect. I chose to take on a leadership role in my union in order to give back to the teachers who pushed me forward as a leader.”
Brown added, “I’m very thankful to CEA and WEA that we have school-based clinics, because that means we’re still able to teach during the day and choose an hour or a time that is feasible for us without having to interrupt student learning. I’m hoping more school districts will be able to do this as well. I know of other people who have been trying to get appointments on their own, and some of them are looking at appointments all the way in April or May. Having these clinics today it means I will be able to get back to business that much sooner and continue with the learning and growing that’s so important to our students.”
“I’m so proud of our teachers,” said Delskey. “They have stepped up and sacrificed so much.”
Clinics at Windsor High School for second doses are scheduled for March 31 and April 7.