Shelton school staffers ready to get vaccinated

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — City educators are breathing a sigh of relief after word from Gov. Ned Lamont’s office that school staff and professional childcare workers will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine next month.

The news of educators’ ability to be vaccinated beginning in March was part of Lamont’s new schedule, released Monday, for age-based eligibility for the next several months.

“This is news that we have been waiting to hear,” said Deb Keller, Perry Hill School music teacher and head of the city’s teachers’ union. “Although Shelton has been very fortunate that the schools have not been a primary source for spreading COVID, we will all feel much safer with the protection the vaccine will offer us.”

The planned schedule calls for people ages 55 to 64 registering beginning March 1; ages 45 to 54 on March 22; ages 35 to 44 on April 12; and ages 16 to 34 on May 3.

In addition to the age-based eligibility, Lamont stated that Pre-K to 12 school staff and teachers and professional childcare providers will be eligible to receive the vaccine in March at dedicated clinics that will be set up specifically for those sectors.

Educators and childcare professionals will soon receive information from their school administrators and employers on when their dedicated clinics will be provided, Lamont said.

“By laying out a clear timeline for eligibility for the vaccine,” Lamont said in a statement, “the strategy allows everyone in the state, including essential workers and those with chronic conditions, to know when they will be able to schedule an appointment.”

Keller said, hopefully with the availability of the vaccine and following the COVID-19 protocols, the district can have all students return to school.

“Teachers feel very strongly that our students need academic and social emotional learning to resume,” Keller said. “The effects of the pandemic on student achievement will be felt for years to come.

“In addition to student growth, the toll that this disease has taken on teachers' personal lives has been devastating,” Keller said. “The ability to fully return to school will allow students and teachers to begin to create the new normal.”

The new age-based change does bump essential workers and those with underlying conditions from the front of the vaccination line — something that has prompted complaints from those residents most affected.

State Rep. Jason Perillo, R-113, said he has already heard complaints from constituents on the vaccination schedule change.

“Many people have underlying conditions that put them at greater risk but now they’ve been moved down the timeline,” Perillo said. “Others are frontline workers — largely food service and grocery — who were seeing light at the end of the tunnel but are now left feeling frustrated.”

Perillo said he understands no one has a crystal ball, but policy changes of Monday’s magnitude do have a stressful impact on people.

City Emergency Management Director Michael Maglione, however, called the move a “benefit across the board.”

Maglione said with health care workers, first responders and the older age groups that have most felt the deadly effects of the virus vaccinated, the new schedule will make sure everyone receives their dose as long as supplies last.

“I feel this is a good idea,” Maglione said. “The vast majority of the groups most impacted, and health care workers, have received the vaccine. And getting the teachers vaccinated is so important … we need to get everyone back full time in the classrooms.”

School Superintendent Ken Saranich also praised the news.

"When we went into full remote learning in November, it was not because of the spread of COVID-19 … it was a result of staff being quarantined,” Saranich said.

“Once our school staff is vaccinated, then we will have less of a chance of placing individuals on quarantine,” Saranich added, “and we will have a better chance of keeping our schools open for our students and moving in the direction of bringing them back full time.”