(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The St. Joseph School District made a strong showing at the community vaccination clinic Tuesday.
This week, Missouri schools hit a major milestone in the pandemic when the state qualified more than half of a million Missourians for COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday.
The Mosaic-run clinic administered COVID-19 vaccine shots to newly eligible teachers and school staff including Donita Swafford. Swafford runs the kitchen at Carden Park Elementary. She was eager to get her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at the clinic Tuesday.
“I was looking forward to it because of course, we all want to be safe,” Swafford said.
Lara Gilpin, Principal at Spring Garden Middle School, also received her first shot at the clinic Tuesday. She said vaccinations may give some teachers and families some peace of mind about in-person classes.
“I think it’s just a reassurance for our staff, our kids, and our families that we are going home to every night,” Gilpin said.
On the other side of the clinic curtains is Jennifer Koch. She works as a nurse at Lafayette High School and Mosaic. Koch holds a unique dual-position that puts her in a higher priority group for vaccinations in Missouri. As someone that is already vaccinated, she said she has enjoyed helping her colleagues do the same.
“I’m so excited to see this tier get vaccinated. The teachers have been, for a lack of a better term, chopping at the bit to get out here and get this done,” Koch said. “We’ve been doing masks and social distancing but it’s just nicer to have that extra layer of protection so we can continue to go toward normal.”
According to Missouri’s Department of Education, 97 percent of schools returned to some form of in-person learning this year. But to make that happen, teachers and staff have had to adapt or take on entirely new side jobs.
“Oh my goodness the paperwork is crazy. We are trying to keep track of all of the teachers and all of the staff and all of the students that have either tested positive or been in contact with it so we have to keep track of where they are and when they are coming back and make sure we can keep them up-to-date on their studies so they don’t fall behind. It’s a constant battle,” Koch said.
For cafeteria workers like Swafford, the pandemic stole the part of her job she enjoyed most.
“We don't get to see the kid’s faces. We work in an elementary school and we don't get to really see their smiles and get to have that contact with them that we normally would have,” she said. “We have to transport their food to their classrooms so they don’t get to come through the lunchline and we really enjoy that.”
In addition to a return to normalcy, Swafford said she decided to get vaccinated for her own health and her husband’s.
“He’s got a compromised immune system so it makes me feel better knowing that I’m protecting his as well,” she said.
All three of the women KQ2 spoke to Tuesday said family, personal health and safety, and a return to normalcy were major motivating factors to getting vaccinated. Koch, however, had a unique fourth motivator: a vacation with her son.
“I would really like to go on a cruise vacation this summer and I’m thinking that that might be a requirement and so I jumped right on it so that hopefully I can do any of those things,” she said.