Local health officials announced Friday that they will launch a mass COVID-19 vaccination effort for Dane County teachers and school staff, as Madison Metropolitan School District is set to return to the classroom in phases on March 9.
Public Health Madison and Dane County will manage the vaccinations of K-12 workers. In total, Public Health requested a total of 14,000 vaccine doses for the first two weeks of March.
Although there is an estimated school staff of 15,000 in Dane County, a portion of them are over 65 and are already vaccinated, which is why only 14,000 doses were ordered. The current estimated timeframe to vaccinate Dane County educators is six to eight weeks, though officials have said that could change depending on the supply of vaccines.
Director of Public Health Janel Heinrich said the district asked for a large-scale effort to vaccinate its employees.
“We’re happy to lead the effort to vaccinate teachers at the Alliant Energy Center,” she said. “We all want kids in classrooms and vaccinated teachers are one more way that schools can protect the health and safety of staff and students.”
The Madison School District’s current plan is to allow kindergartners to return on March 9, followed by first and second graders on March 16 and four-year-old kindergartners on March 23.
“This clinic exemplifies how a community gets through challenging times — partners coming together around a shared desire to make schools safer for teachers and kids,” County Executive Joe Parisi said. “Vaccine clinics like this are part of the path out of this pandemic.”
Madison Teachers Inc., a local union, has neither encouraged nor discouraged its members to support the plan of returning to in-person instruction.
However, the teaching union does have concerns about the return — posed to the district Feb. 12 in an open letter — including how the district will partner with health authorities to accelerate the vaccine delivery and how the district is determining whether a return to in-person instruction is safe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages teachers to get vaccinated as soon as possible, although they have not stated that staff should be vaccinated before returning.
Public Health estimates over 15 percent of Dane County residents are vaccinated right now. Currently eligible for vaccination in Wisconsin are those over 65, frontline health workers, nursing home and long-term care residents and staff, emergency responders and prison staff. Starting on March 1, workers in child care and education, enrollees in Medicaid long-term care programs, certain essential workers, workers and residents in communal living settings and more health care employees will be able to get the vaccine.