Educator vaccines and school re-openings

PHOTO: Foundation School Director Leah Conley received her first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Convention Center on Jan. 25. 

As of Jan. 25, Oregon had administered a total of 308,050 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. That’s about 7.5% of Oregon’s population. Phase 1b of Oregon’s vaccination rollout plan began Jan. 25, with eligibility extending to child-care providers and K-12 educators and staff. The Oregon Health Authority estimates 105,000 educators statewide now are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Statistics on how many educators have been vaccinated are not shown on the OHA website, but it does show that since educators became eligible on Jan. 25, 14,050 doses were given on the 25th, 15,034 on the 26th and 12,292 on the 27th.
The staff at Portland metro’s three Jewish day schools have begun to receive vaccines. Maayan Torah Day School had a third of its staff vaccinated the week of Jan. 25. Faculty and staff at Portland Jewish Academy also have started getting vaccinated or making appointments. Maimonides Jewish Day School staff who work in the Jewish day school’s child-care group have been able to receive their first vaccine. 
“We will continue getting our full staff vaccinated with their first dose in 10 more days,” says Maayan Torah Principal Aviel Brodkin. “Additionally, the state will be providing Maayan with rapid COVID-19 tests and staff training to administer them. The vaccines and rapid tests are big steps in ensuring the continued safety of our students and staff.”
Educators in at least three Portland-area Jewish preschools have received their first vaccine or have an appointment to do so. 
“For me, receiving the vaccine feels like respect and relief,” says Cory Willson, assistant director of the Foundation School. “Being seen (as an educator) and then receiving care that keeps me safe means a lot. I was surprised that I got a little emotional during my vaccine, but I did. Sitting in the convention center with fellow educators as they received care was powerful.”
Receiving the vaccine has been a morale boost for local educators.
“Every teacher I’ve spoken to reports the same feelings of recognition and support having received dose one,” says Cory. “Teachers are not historically used to receiving abundantly, but in this case, society acknowledges our work and our risk. This no doubt boosts morale at any time, but especially during a pandemic.”
OHA’s COVID vaccine page notes: “If you work in a public or private K-12 school setting, your school district will contact you about scheduling a vaccination. If you are a child-care worker, your employer will connect you with information about scheduling a vaccine. If you are an employer of child-care workers, or an in-home provider, your county or other local vaccine partner will reach out to you to provide you with information to schedule a vaccine for yourself and for your employees.”


Parents Zoom in for session on reopening of schools


This year has been full of uncertainty for school-aged families. Throughout the summer, there was uncertainty about what the fall would look like; in mid-summer, it was announced that all schools would be virtual until certain benchmarks were met. In December, Governor Kate Brown announced that districts would have the opportunity to make their own decisions, and many began to start looking at reopening mid-winter.  
On the evening of Jan. 25, elementary school families had the opportunity to hear from principals Jessica Swindle from Metzger Elementary School, Merrill Hendin from Portland Jewish Academy and Aviel Brodkin from Maayan Torah Day School along with Dinah Gilburd, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker from Jewish Family & Child Service. This was part of an ongoing series from Jewish Federation of Greater Portland on parenting during the pandemic.
The various school settings have operated in very different ways. Maayan Torah Day School secured an emergency child-care license, which covered up to age 12, so they have been mostly in person since fall. PJA has had limited in-person gatherings for their students, about two hours per week, while the public school system has been completely virtual. 
The schools that have been operating virtually now are implementing plans for a reopening. For many, it will be a hybrid model and safety precautions are being put into place. There are procedures, including surveys that families will fill out each morning to verify the health of all those attending schools. Classrooms are being retrofitted to keep distancing measures in place. And schools are being creative. The Tigard-Tualatin School District is currently making videos with their school mascots designed to help families learn about the new protocols.
Vaccination was a topic of discussion as our educators begin their journey to that process (see story above). While our educators are starting to be vaccinated, especially those in preschool and lower elementary ages, it will still not change the day-to-day behaviors and safety precautions that our families need to take.
Dinah spoke about how the upcoming few weeks are going to be another time of transition for families. Going back to school will change the routines that families have established. In addition, it will still be a year of flexibility. Classes or pods may need to quarantine, and school will not be every day, necessitating creativity for families.
The evening ended on a positive note with administrators reflecting on the positive things they would like to carry on from this: how much their students love the communities and how passionate the educators are at providing high-quality learning to their families.
Rachel Nelson is the director of educational initiatives & intergroup outreach for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.


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