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Some school staff get vaccine

FAIRMONT — A dozen Fairmont Area Schools staff members will receive the COVID-19 vaccine this weekend through a pilot program that has expanded access to the vaccine.

On Monday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced that 6,000 vaccines will be made available this week to school districts across the state.

The Fairmont Area School district received an allotment of 12.

Each school district received a number of vaccines based on the number of employees in the district. Fairmont Area Schools has about 250 total staff members.

Superintendent Joe Brown pointed out that there are 250,000 individuals that currently work in public schools throughout the state. It includes bus drivers, food service employees, custodians, teachers and paraprofessionals.

“If you do that math, it would take 41 and a half weeks to get everyone vaccinated. My hope is that more vaccines will be made available,” Brown said.

Brown said the Minnesota Department of Education suggested first prioritizing those over the age of 65. Others on the priority list include those who work in the health industry, like school nurses, early childhood staff and special education staff.

“We identified 12 people initially and sent out an invitation. Three people said they didn’t want the vaccine so we went down the list again and put three more people on it,” Brown said.

Brown said he just received his verification for the vaccine as he will soon be 70.

“Personally I don’t like shots, but I’m looking forward to this one,” Brown said.

This weekend, the staff members will go to Dakota Meadows Middle School in North Mankato, where they will receive their first dose of the vaccine.

The Department of Education has set up nine sites across the state where school staff can receive their vaccination. Two are in the metro and the rest are in outstate Minnesota. North Mankato is Fairmont’s closest site.

“Ideally it would be nice to have a more local place, but it makes sense that Mankato is the host,” Brown said.

Everyone will have to go back in two weeks to receive their second dose of the vaccine.

Brown is hopeful that more vaccine doses will be made available to school staff members soon.

State officials are aware that there is not enough vaccine to go around. Minnesota is receiving just 60,000 doses each week. Those in phase 1a, which includes health care workers and long-term care residents and staff, first began receiving the vaccine last month.

Walz has stressed that it’s critical to get kids back in school, a priority that Brown agrees with.

“We need to get our economy going. We need to get people back to work and one way to do that is to get students back in school,” Brown said.

This week, all Fairmont Elementary students returned to the classroom full-time. Students at the high school are in a hybrid model, with half of the student body attending school in-person on alternating days.

Brown hopes to have high school students back in the classroom full-time by February 1.

“It’s really a local, regional, state and national issue right now. We need to get kids back in school. We’re all in this together,” Brown said.

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