Aspen teacher vaccinations could be drawn-out process, superintendent cautions
Gov. Jared Polis’ recent announcement to start inoculating day care workers, teachers and others on the front lines of education is welcome news to the Aspen School District, but the vaccination supply chain poses a “huge stumbling block” to administer shots in a timely manner, according to Superintendent David Baugh.
Polis said Friday teachers would start receiving vaccinations Feb. 8 with the state reserving about one third of its supply for “all student-facing staff” in Colorado.
At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, however, Baugh cautioned the rate at which Pitkin County is receiving doses will prolong the vaccination process.
“If we can get 200 doses a week,” Baugh said of the supply Pitkin County receives, “we only get a third of those for teachers. It’s going to take awhile to get everybody fully inoculated.”
Baugh said 580 individuals in Pitkin County will be eligible for vaccinations next week because they work in education. Getting jabbed is another story.
“There is a huge stumbling block to Feb. 8,” Baugh said. “And it’s the supply chains; they are not delivering the doses. And that’s going to be our biggest stumbling block to getting educators vaccinated in a timely manner.”
Pitkin County vaccinated 1,100 residents Jan. 14 to 15 at the Benedict Music Tent. The second and final round of 1,000 doses will be given this week, along with another 100 first-round shots, County Manager Jon Peacock told commissioners at a meeting Tuesday.
Residents currently being vaccinated are part of the 1B phrase of distribution; recipients include those at least 70-years-old, moderate-risk health care workers and first-responders.
The county had expected 1,450 first doses to be given this week but that order was canceled, Peacock said.
Teachers associations both local and statewide acknowledged Polis’ inclusion of workers in the education field as a critical step to lowering the risk of COVI9-19 transmissions on campus.
“Superintendents and local union leaders will be working together with local public health authorities to create implementation plans for the vaccination, which should be arriving within a week or so of Feb. 8,” the Aspen Education Association, the representative group for Aspen public teachers, said in a statement issued Friday. “Aspen Education Association and the Aspen School District, together with local providers, look forward to rolling out vaccines to our hard-working staff members within the next few weeks. We are excited to be working together to continue the hard work of members of the Aspen School District on vaccinations, continued testing and maintaining the many, many layers of protection to provide the highest levels of education possible during an extremely trying year.”
The Colorado Education Association also issued a statement.
“For the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to take a tremendous toll on educators, students, and their families. While we believe that all essential workers should be a priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, this is a gigantic step toward our longstanding goal of getting our students back into classrooms, where the best learning takes place.“
Student-facing staff qualified for vaccinations “includes child care workers, teachers (full-time, substitutes and student teachers), school nurses (if not already vaccinated), classroom paraprofessionals, school bus drivers, school cafeteria food service staff, custodial staff, school counselors, school administrators, administrative staff and staff providing safety and other support services offered inside the school or child care program,” the governor stated in a Jan. 29-dated letter to educational leaders in Colorado.
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During the 2020-2021 school year Roaring Fork School District saw 311 students withdraw across the district by October — many for pandemic-related reasons, Chief Academic Officer Rick Holt said.