News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

School staff begin receiving vaccine

About 30 specialists, paraprofessionals and support staff were the first of the Sisters School District staff members to receive their initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. The vaccinations come amidst concern that Oregon’s supply may not be as substantial as first reported.

In a news conference on Friday, January 15, Governor Kate Brown expressed her dismay that the total number of available vaccines was apparently misrepresented, but vowed to get as many teachers in Oregon vaccinated as possible in a timely manner, with a target of 12,000 doses a day being maintained. Brown said she is still committed to ensuring Oregon teachers will be vaccinated in large numbers, albeit slightly later than planned, due to the discovery that national reserves of the vaccine are either in shorter supply or nonexistent.

The rollout for teachers has been delayed to the week of January 25, according to Brown, which is about two weeks later than originally planned.

School staff moved near the top of the list for vaccinations in Oregon earlier this month after Brown set in motion a plan for most Oregon schools to return to some level of in-person instruction by mid-February.

Sisters Elementary School, which has been holding in-person classes since late September, will be joined by the middle and high schools as offering some in-person instruction beginning January 25 under the hybrid model.

In a letter sent out by Superintendent Curt Scholl three days before Brown’s press conference, he shared thanks for the work in the county to make vaccinations a reality.

“Thank you to everyone who is working behind the scenes to help to make this opportunity a reality for our staff and to bring a shot of hope to our families and employees,” he wrote. “Our greatest gratitude to the volunteers in the Deschutes County COVID-19 Incident Management Team who have been working days, nights, and weekends to get us here today.”

Receiving the vaccine is optional for staff members and, as with any population, some staff are deciding to decline the vaccine for now. According to Sisters Education Association President Michele Hammer, teachers are also concerned about going back to work prior to getting one, let alone two, doses of the vaccine.

“We surveyed the middle and high school staff about their comfort level returning before vaccination and over 65 percent have concerns about returning to in-person instruction before vaccinations, but don’t feel they really have any choice,” she said.

Hammer explained that some of the concern is the difference in the physical and logistical configurations of the middle school and high school compared to the elementary school. “The difference between the elementary returning and the other two schools is that students will be moving between classes and, especially at the high school level, there is less control over what students are doing and their exposure risks,” she explained.

Sisters students in grades five, six, nine and 10 are scheduled to start back to school under the hybrid model on January 25, followed by grades seven, eight, 11 and 12 on February 1.


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