With 1,700 employees, here's how Danbury plans to vaccinate its schools staff

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DANBURY — The city plans to vaccinate its public school staff within the first two weeks of March, and looks to prioritize educators working in the buildings.

“People are really excited about this,” Kimberly Mango Thompson, the human resources director, told the school board on Wednesday night. “It’s what’s giving all of us a little bit of spring in our step on getting this across the finish line.”

The state Monday announced educators would be eligible for the vaccine beginning March 1. Danbury administrators say this is key for students to have more in-person learning time.

District officials are sorting through their list of everyone on the school payroll and plan to upload the names into the vaccine system, so that staff can sign up for appointments. The largest district in the area, Danbury has more than 1,700 employees, according to state data.

“The one criteria that we do need to meet is that we need to try focus on those who are going to be in buildings, working with students,” Thompson said. “So, for example, those who are working remotely, who have no contact with students, will not go in at this time.”

Superintendent Sal Pascarella said the district is working through “technical, legal issues” to vaccinate staff working remotely. Some staff asked to work remotely because of health concerns, but would return to the building if they are vaccinated.

“Certainly people will be more apt to come in that are vaccinated, but I think we’re working through those idiosyncrasies,” Pascarella said. “Some of them are very, very difficult personnel issues.”

Once the lists are uploaded, staff will receive an automated email from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention inviting them to register in the Vaccine Administration Management System, Thompson said.

Staff can make appointments at clinics locally and across the state, she said. The city health department has been conducting clinics at Rogers Park Middle School.

The state told the city health department that vaccinations for educators should be completed by the end of March, said Kara Prunty, acting health director.

“I would like to do it sooner than that,” said Prunty, adding she is eyeing the first two weeks in March.

She has requested enough vaccine to cover everyone on the district’s list, but the state has not said how many or when doses would arrive.

“I’m anxiously awaiting that information from the state,” Prunty said.

The district does not want its clinics to interfere with hours, and plans to ask staff seeking appointments in other communities to avoid scheduling one during the school day, Thompson said. Another factor is the day of the week the clinic falls, in case staff have side effects the next day.

Substitute teachers are in short supply, so the district hopes to avoid driving up absences, she said.

“We could see some serious stressors there, as well,” Thompson said.