From the moment COVID-19 vaccines became available in Maine, RSU 18 Superintendent Carl Gartley became a little obsessed with getting his staff vaccinated. From tracking down available vaccines, to connecting eligible staff members with appointments, the topic of vaccination seemed to find its way into most of his conversations in the early months of 2021.
“I got a personal call from him on a Saturday morning letting me know that there was a vaccine appointment available if I was interested,” said MHS English teacher Laurel Hanson. “I was extremely impressed with his dedication.”
Mr. Gartley spent several hours on the phone during those early weeks, trying to connect eligible staff members with available vaccines. “We worked with the Maine Department of Education for one state run clinic in mid March. That was based on age before shots were open to all school employees,” said Mr. Gartley. “Then our staff members were able to sign up for their vaccinations through MaineGeneral Hospital, Inland Hospital, Walmart and Walgreens.”
Once all educators and child care workers became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, RSU 18 teamed up with Shane Savage at Oakland Pharmacy to offer two on site clinics at MHS. On Tuesday, April 13th, 180 staff members made their way to the MHS gym to receive their second shot of the Moderna COVID Vaccine. Many staff members voiced a sense of relief as they chatted in the waiting area after their second shot. “It’s been a stressful year,” one said. “This makes me feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Not only did the district do everything in their power to get shots into the arms of all their staff as soon as possible, the second clinic was followed by two remote learning days to give teachers the opportunity to recover from any negative side effects from their second dose. Reactions ranged from some people having virtually no side effects to others feeling quite ill, according to Mr. Gartley.
“I heard from many of our staff that they were able to teach remotely those two days, but if we had been in person they likely would not have been able to come in,” said Mr. Gartley. “As they have all year, the staff stepped up. In this case, they didn’t feel well, but they did their job.”
At this time, any staff member who wants the vaccine has been able to get it. Everyone who was vaccinated at the April 13th clinic will be up to full vaccine effectiveness by the Tuesday after vacation. Combined with the number of staff that were vaccinated last month, this greatly reduces the likelihood of school or grade level shutdowns.
“Our staff continues to show amazing dedication to our students in what has been a difficult year,” said Superintendent Gartley. “I am so proud of our district.”