'A weight has been lifted': More than 500 Shelton school workers receive COVID vaccine

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — With more than 550 school staffers — including teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and others — receiving the COVID vaccine last weekend, district officials are turning their focus to a full in-person return to school.

Superintendent Ken Saranich said the district’s operations committee will meet Thursday to discuss the clinic and the next steps in getting all students back into the classroom.

"It is a relief that we are all one step closer to some sense of normalcy,” Long Hill School Principal Andrea D’Aiuto said after the day-long clinic Saturday at Shelton Intermediate School.

“Walking out of the clinic on Saturday, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders,” she added. “I do know that we need to continue to practice our mitigation strategies, but with having the first dosage of the vaccination it makes me feel safer.”

The school district held the clinic for staff members under the direction of Griffin Hospital and the Naugatuck Valley Health District. School staff received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, with the second to be administered on March 27.

Saranich called the clinic “an amazing experience” and praised the school nurses, the Naugatuck Valley Health District, Griffin Hospital, Echo Hose Ambulance techs and community volunteers for their efforts in making the event a reality.

“Our community has an extremely unique bond. So many people came together to make something special happen for our schools, which has a direct positive effect on our entire community.”

Saranich said the vaccinations will not only make schools safer for students and staff, but also allow for more in-person instruction. He added this allows “our families the hope for a return to a normal routine.”

“This experience was only possible because of the community coming together,” Saranich said. “Not only was it great to get the vaccinations, but to share this experience with your friends and colleagues made the event a Shelton triumph.”

Theresa Manus-Piccolo, a Shelton High art teacher, said she felt receiving the vaccine was the “right thing to do.”

“Vaccinating our staff helps keep ourselves, our families, and our students safe, but also helps us physically be able to do our jobs in the building with less risk of a shutdown,” Manus-Piccolo said.

“Hopefully, the vaccine will work and though not everyone can receive it yet, those of us who have received the vaccine can slow the spread of COVID-19, not fall ill, and continue to do our jobs in school buildings with children,” she added.

Considering only the first dose has been administered, Saranich said the school community must remain vigilant with mask wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.

Manus-Piccolo said that, after the past year, “children need a better version of normal the most.”

“They need a routine and schedules,” she said. “They need their teachers and school community to stabilize so that they can continue to learn and grow. I’m very hopeful that with the vaccine we can move forward as a united school community and continue the good work we have always done.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com