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Mitchell teacher vaccinations to get jump start this week

Vaccines to be offered at district buildings through Lewis Drug

FILE PHOTO: Vial and sryinge are seen in front of displayed Johnson&Johnson logo in this illustration taken
A vial and sryinge are seen in front of a displayed Johnson & Johnson logo in this illustration taken Jan. 11. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

The long-awaited start of getting vaccines to teachers will begin this week when Lewis Drug is expected to administer the shots to school employees starting Thursday, the Mitchell Board of Education heard at its most recent meeting Monday.

Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, said during his monthly superintendent’s report that Lewis Drug recently contacted the district with the plan.

“We were contacted by the Lewis Drug pharmacy and offered vaccinations in our buildings, which was a really nice plum,” Graves said. “Those are going to begin this Thursday, March 11.”

Pharmacies in South Dakota began offering COVID-19 vaccinations to educators recently, after the Biden administration required the federal program that sends vaccine doses to pharmacies open access to teachers.

Graves said vaccinations will begin at Mitchell High School from 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Thursday. That period will be followed by another round of vaccinations at Mitchell Middle School from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

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A second day of vaccinations will be held Monday, March 15 at L.B. Williams Elementary School from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Longfellow Elementary School from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

The primary version of the vaccine being offered is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, though the Moderna vaccine will also be available if demand exceeds the supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Graves also said that those requesting a shot can opt for the Moderna vaccine, a two-dose variant, if they so choose.

“The dose being offered primarily is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is the one-dose variant. There will be 40 of those doses available at each building. If we go past 40, then the Moderna vaccine will be offered as well,” Graves said. “For those who have a concern about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for ethical reasons, they can simply move to the Moderna vaccine.”

Graves said the chance to get a jump start on school employee vaccinations with the state vaccination program still working its way to prioritizing teachers on its schedule is one that was too good to pass up. Area educators have expressed patience about the schedule, but many are interested in getting their shot.

“We’ve been in conversation with Eric Larsen, who is the county coordinator for vaccinations, and he has encouraged us that as soon as we can get vaccines to proceed with that,” Graves said. “The overall state vaccination program is still some weeks away in all probability, so this will really expedite the process.”

Vaccinations will be offered to both teachers and other district employees, Graves said.

Graves also said he had not yet been contacted about any similar events at Mitchell Technical College, but he expects those discussions to take place in the near future.

Spring activities

The board approved the plan for holding spring extracurricular activities.

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While Graves said there were very few changes to the procedures the district has employed in past activities seasons, the fact that spring activities are largely held outdoors should eliminate the need to restrict attendance through the use of vouchers at events like tennis, golf and track and field.

The district will adjust that policy if it becomes necessary, he said.

“If that becomes an issue, we would go back and start using vouchers (again),” Graves said.

Cory Aadland, activities director for the district, said the school has learned a great deal in the past year for holding activities during a pandemic.

“It’s been a challenge, and we’re a lot better at it than we were at the start of the year. We’re doing well, and we’re seeing the value in what we’re doing,” Aadland said.

Deb Olson, president of the Mitchell Board of Education, said the efforts have paid off in ensuring Mitchell students receive the full spectrum of their educational experience.

“We’ve reached the benefits of having kids be able to participate in activities, so we’re doing well,” Olson said.

Masks

A question from the audience at the virtual meeting asked if there was any timeline on rescinding the district mask mandate that was established at the start of the school year.

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Graves said in his discussions with health care professionals that there was no firm date when a recommendation may come to no longer require masks on district property, though it is likely that the requirement will end with the start of the 2021-22 school year.

“I don’t know if we have a tentative date for the mandate to expire, but there is a strong sense that it will not be in place at the start of next school year,” Graves said.

Personnel

The board approved the following personnel moves at the March 8 meeting:

  • The new classified hires of Kylee Hanson, general food services worker at Mitchell Middle School, $12.75, effective Feb. 16 and Rheighna VanHooser, general food service worker, $12.75, effective March 1.

  • The transfer of Sadie Klumb from 4th/5th grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary to 5th grade teacher at L.B. Williams Elementary, effective for the 2020-21 school year.

  • A certified one-year leave of absence for Walt Moody, 5th grade teacher at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, effective at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

  • The resignations of Hallie Tate, ELA teacher at Mitchell Middle School, effective end of the 2020-21 school year; Taylor Risse, 3rd grade elementary teacher at L.B. Williams Elementary, effective end of the 2020-21 school year; Maddy Millar, 1st grade teacher at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, effective end of the 2020-21 school year; Courtney Anderson, head cook at L.B. Williams Elementary, effective Feb. 26, 2021; Tressa Wede, 5th grade teacher at L.B. Williams, effective end of the 2020-21 school year; Lorry Dykes, food service worker at Gertie Belle Rogers, effective Feb. 28, 2021; Cody Foreman, assistant 9th grade football coach, effective end of the 2020-21 school year; Michaela Steffern, assistant middle school track coach, effective spring 2022 pending suitable replacement; Ken Novak, head boys soccer coach, effective end of the 2020-21 school year and Erin Geidel, paraeducator at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, effective March 16.

  • The retirement of Conni McCormick, 2nd grade teacher at L.B. Williams Elementary, effective May 24, 2021.

  • The MTC new hire of Ryan Van Zee, adjunct instructor (spring semester 2021), $4,700, effective Feb. 22, 2021.

  • The MTC resignation of Kerry Hagemeier, business instructor at MTC, effective Feb. 19, 2021.

Other business

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Recognized the Mitchell High School gymnastics team on its recent state championship victory.

  • Recognized Julie Olson on her recent selection for the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship.

  • Heard board member reports.

  • Heard the superintendent report.

The next meeting of the board is scheduled for April 12.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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