All New Canaan Public Schools staff and faculty seeking COVID-19 vaccinations will have a chance to get their shots within the next two-and-a-half weeks or so, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said Monday night.
Under the continued vaccine rollout that Gov. Ned Lamont announced last week, school staff and teachers are among those eligible to get vaccinated starting in March.
Luizzi said he connected immediately with Health Director Jenn Eielson to put together a thorough, fair, thoughtful and non-disruptive system for all full-time and part-time district staff members.
“This is a milestone in this whole experience, for all of us,” Luizzi told members of the Board of Education during their regular meeting, held via videoconference. “And we are really excited to get going.”
He added, “The vaccinations have been foremost on our minds, and that’s a big turning point here with COVID and everything else that we’ve been experiencing.”
The comments came during Luizzi’s general update on COVID-19.
During an initial clinic at Lapham Community Center that will be held Wednesday, 350 first doses will be administered to all full- and part-time staff members aged approximately 46-and-older, Luizzi said.
“And we’re still working and refining that list, so in one week we are able to get to a significant portion of our staff,” he said. “The system that we have in place looks like it might take two-and-a-half weeks or so for everybody who wants a vaccination to get one.”
First-dose clinics will be held on Wednesday afternoons when school is not in session, Luizzi said, and second doses will be offered Fridays so that people can rest through possible side effects.
“We have the amazing good fortune of having Jenn Eielson as our health director and having a great relationship with her in the Health Depatrment, and so even before the announcement was public, Jenn and I were talking and we were also working through how could we make this work for our system and our community, and do it as seamlessly as possible,” Luizzi said.
They made its priority “to take the stress out of the process for our staff, so they could focus the things they need to focus on—teaching, caring for themselves, caring for each other, caring for our kids,” he said.
“We didn’t want this to become another stress in people’s lives in our schools. We focused on equity of access to the vaccinations themselves, knowing that we have got some staff that are very computer savvy, that spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. We have other staff that may not have email addresses for all we know. When we said that working in schools is a people business and a large operation with many different roles for people, we hire some people that should never look at a computer screen while they’re working in our schools. So we had to find a way to do this that didn’t advantage one group and disadvantage another.”
The meeting also included a presentation from South School Principal Matthew Kascak and Assistant Principal Zoe Robinson on how the school last summer planned for safe in-person learning for this academic year and the steps that South has taken.
Board of Ed member Dionna Carlson said, “Thank you for all the hard work and keeping our kids in school. I think it really is a testament to this district and all the amazing staff that we have in this district.”
She asked Luizzi about what percentage uptick he’s seeing in the district in terms of the staff getting vaccinated.
Luizzi said while he doesn’t have a hard number and some district staff members are opting out of the appointments because they’ve already made their own plans to get vaccinated elsewhere, that it is higher than than the 60% to 80% reported out in other areas.
“I am thrilled with the way that we are addressing it,” Luizzi said. “I think that people feel good knowing that they don’t have to go into VAMS or into another system and go through the frustration.”
He added, “And I can’t help it but to share that we have also had people crying and breaking down in tears and sending very nice notes and other things because of the impact that it will have on their professional life and their personal life,” Luizzi said. “People crying that they’ll be able to hug their grandchildren for the first time in more than a year. It’s moving.”
According to the district’s continuously updated Charting Our Course operations plan, as of Monday a total of 21 students across all schools were isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 virus, as well as two staff members. Another 95 students district-wide are in quarantine due to close contact with a positive case, according to the document.
According to figures reported Monday by the Connecticut Department of Health, New Canaan now is up to 1,095 cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19. That’s up 67 cases from Feb. 19. The town about two weeks ago passed the 1,000-case mark. Town officials say most new cases are caused by family transmission and largely represent younger people, with some cases linked to families traveling over Feb break.