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District Educators, Staff, Grateful for Vaccination Opportunity Through Cllinic

Bradford's Principal gives a thumbs up at the vaccine clinic  After a seamless check in, Sandy Alvarez made her way to a table and two familiar faces: Jon McDonald, school nurse for Bradford Elementary, where Ms. Alvarez serves as principal, and Stephanie Smith, principal of Belmont Elementary and a longtime friend and colleague, today serving as a volunteer.

After warm greetings were exchanged, Principal Alvarez took a seat in order to begin the process for which she arrived.

“I’m glad, excited and grateful, just a little apprehensive,” Principal Alvarez said after answering a few brief questions from Nurse McDonald. “But I’m going for it.”

“Relax that arm down and just let it hang,” instructed Nurse McDonald as he swabbed Principal Alvarez’s exposed left shoulder with alcohol.

Mere seconds later, the procedure was over.

“You’re a good shot giver,” Principal Alvarez told Nurse McDonald. “I didn’t feel a thing! You’re so good.”

“Well,” Nurse McDonald offered, “that’s about my 30th one today.”

Saturday, nearly a year after the unexpected and unwanted arrival of COVID-19 forced the closure of schools, Pueblo School District 60 educators, administrators and support staff took a major, and long-anticipated step, toward a return to full in-person instruction.

Inside the Southwest Motors Events Center on the Colorado State Fairgrounds, 22 vaccinators and a team of support staff and volunteers provided D60 personnel with an extra layer of protection in the form of a Pzifer COVID-19 vaccination.

The mass vaccination clinic was facilitated by the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment, which the district has worked hand-in-hand with since the outbreak of the pandemic, and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, which focused its efforts on licensed child care facility operators and staff.

Due to enduring frigid and wintery weather conditions, the clinic was relocated from the Pueblo Mall-based site to the warmer confines of the Events Center. Randy Evetts poses for a picture with the superintendent and assistant superintednet  at the vaccine clinic

There looking on as hundreds of D60 personnel filed in were Public Health Director Randy Evetts and Charlotte Macaluso, D60 Superintendent, the key players in the partnership between the health department and the school district.

“I’m really excited that we are getting our teachers vaccinated,” Director Evetts said. “It’s important for our schools, and so important to get our kids back in those schools. It’s a great step and this is a monumental day for us.”

Director Evetts praised the staff of the Colorado State Fair for use of the Events Center on short notice.

“The State Fair has been very cooperative with us and supportive of our efforts: not only with the test site but this vaccination site,” he said. “And this worked out really well for us.”

“We’ve been waiting for this day for quite awhile,” added Superintendent Macaluso. “This is a fantastic day: we know that in-person learning is so crucial to academic achievement and enhancing the social and emotional well being of our students. So this is just one more layer of protection that we can provide to keep our schools open.

“And we had a very positive response from our educators who signed up for the vaccine. So we’re excited about that.”

D60 Nurse, Jessica McDonald administers a vaccine to a patient  Staffing one of the vaccination stations was Jessica Foster, who supervises the D60 school nursing staff.

“We’re excited that we get to be part of this,” Nurse Foster said. “We had the opportunity to be vaccinated so we have some first-hand insight on side effects and how we felt. Working in the schools, and having a child in school, I want to do everything I can to make sure we get back to full time instruction and stay that way.”

After receiving her vaccination, Principal Alvarez waited in a designated area for 15 minutes to ensure that there were no adverse reactions.

“There were a lot of things that ran through my head this morning,” she said. “Every morning, I get a little news flash on my phone – ‘Things to worry about today regarding COVID’ – and I looked at it and thought, ‘No. I’m not going to read that.’ In these times, people have trouble believing what is true and not true.

“So today, I decided I was going to trust in God and do what I think is best for my body and take the vaccine.”

Nearby, Russ Avina, a veteran educator at Pueblo Academy of Arts, waited out his 15 minutes.PAA educator, Russ Avina has a band-aid put on after receiving his vaccine

“I was excited for today,” Mr. Avina said. “It’s additional protection for being in the classroom with kids. I think that’s the goal here: to try to get to 100 percent in-person.”

Like Principal Alvarez, Mr. Avina said there was minimal discomfort during the vaccination.

“It felt just like a regular flu shot,” he said.

Arriving at the clinic together were Caroline Apodaca and Kristin Chandler, Exceptional Student Services educators at Risley International Academy of Innovation.

After receiving the vaccine, and then making it through the 15-minute observation period in fine health, the two educators reflected on the experience.

“I was prepared and ready for it because I want to make certain I’m protected against the virus as best as I can be,” Ms. Apodaca said. “I believe this is an important step for the return of fully in-person education.”

Her colleague believes the same.

“I’m grateful to Pueblo School District 60 and to the health department for giving us this opportunity,” Ms. Chandler said. “I think that once educators and everyone are vaccinated, everyone will feel safer having the students come back to school. 

“I encourage anyone who is unsure about the vaccine to get it. I think everyone should get vaccinated so we can get the community back up and running again much faster.”

After 15 minutes of observation, and with no ill effects from the shot, Principal Alvarez was ready to depart.

“I feel fine,” she said. “I don’t seem to have any reactions or side effects. This is a very comfortable place to be sitting and waiting: a lot more comfortable than I thought it would be. 

“I feel this vaccination is a step in the right direction and that we are going to move through this.”

In all, more than 1,200 D60 personnel will be vaccinated at the conclusion of the two-day clinic Sunday.