Published March 25, 2021
By MICHAEL LAKIND
Even though Monterey County was lagging far behind in its distribution rates initially, CHS teachers are finally getting access to the vaccine.
According to Craig Chavez, Carmel Unified School District’s chief human resources officer, as of March 12, 86% of the CHS faculty and staff, as well as 81% of the total employees across the district, had either completed the two-step vaccine or were scheduled to do so.
“We had received some specific appointments through Monterey County Office of Education, and we identified staff members who might have a challenge with technology who were already working,” says Chavez about the prioritized allocation process in its first nine days.
Many teachers had been vaccinated before March, but with less structure. Because of the time that Monterey County was behind every state’s rate of vaccines per 100,000 residents, some CHS teachers decided that heading to other counties was the most viable solution. To compare, the Los Angeles Times reports that Santa Cruz County currently has just shy of 17,000 more doses per 100,000 residents than Monterey County. As time went on, more and more teachers were able to find vaccination appointments in cities ranging from Palo Alto to King City.
“The Association of Carmel Teachers communicates through Slack across the district, and people started to put in notifications saying, ‘Hey, there are shots available for educators in Santa Clara County,’ for example,” says ACT president Bill Schrier. “Dozens of Carmel Unified teachers got vaccinated through that process with word of mouth.”
This was not the only route, however. Some teachers had a preference for one of the specific types of the COVID-19 vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson instead of Moderna, or thought it would be best to wait until there was an appointment ready in the Monterey area. This is where the CUSD human resources team came in.
“Craig Chavez and Rick Lopez, the director of special projects, sent us links to the sign-up for vaccination appointments within the closed pod offered to educators at the Montage in Marina,” says CHS art teacher Steven Russell.
While improving vaccine distribution certainly helps the process of returning to school, it never was a truly dependent factor. It might be assumed as such, but the district was never waiting for vaccinations to be introduced in order to begin reopening schools.
“The elementary schools opened up before we had a significant number before we even hit 50% [of employees vaccinated] as a district,” Chavez says. “Dr. Fauci was talking about how herd immunity occurs around 70%, and as a district we’re already above that in regards to our staff members.”
Under the umbrella term of “teachers,” some CHS students have also been able to get their vaccine during this time frame instead of waiting until May for age limits on registration to be lifted. Madison Hart, a CHS senior, teaches dance classes for children locally and was able to use her status as a working teacher to get vaccinated during the block of time reserved for people age 65 and up.
“Getting vaccinated has made me much more comfortable, and my students and their families more comfortable as well,” Hart says. “I am maintaining my same COVID protocol because my students are not vaccinated, but it gives everyone a breath of relief for a little while.”
Across the board, gaining access to immunizations has brought peace of mind to many educators as the world continues to move closer to reopening. With Monterey County moving into a less restrictive tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s economic plan and more parts of normal life starting to return, maintaining physical safety by getting vaccinated is a priority for many.
“It feels good to start seeing more students in person and seeing my students having fun together,” says CHS dance teacher Kristine Tarozzi. “I am spending time reflecting and hoping I made the most of this part year for myself and for my students.”
With an increase in people getting vaccinated, some anxiety exists even for those who trust the science behind them. The rapidity of its development leaves many questions about its long-term effects to be unanswered, but this seems to be an unavoidable downside.
“I had a reaction to the flu shot for the first time ever this past fall so I was very nervous about receiving the vaccine,” explains Spanish teacher Tricia Bean. “I made sure the administering nurse cleaned my arm three times before administering the shot. I am nervous about the variants and the possibility of another surge in cases, but I am encouraged that we are moving in the right direction.”
Returning to school five days a week on April 19 may create mixed reactions from students, but there’s no doubt that vaccinating against COVID-19 is a big stepping stone towards the goal of what life was like prior to the pandemic.