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The Aquilian

    D.C. begins to distribute COVID vaccine to teachers

    Gonzaga teachers who were able to get their covid vaccines through the D.C. Department of Health were welcomed with these signs at check-in. (Photo by Mrs. Teresa Jackson)

    On January 25, 2021, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the District would begin distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to teachers. This is a significant step by the D.C. Public Health Department officials who are trying to roll the shots out in order to protect the public-school teachers, as students are currently scheduled to head back to campus.

    Mr. Stephen Neill, Gonzaga’s chief operating officer, has been helping Gonzaga’s teachers with the whole process. Mr. Neill emphasized the challenge the District’s public health officials have before them.

    Teacher vaccines were distributed at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mrs. Teresa Jackson)

    “Unlike many states, they are taking a regional approach to vaccine distribution, which is the right approach from a public health standpoint. But they have a large priority population to consider, and they’re dealing with very limited supply of the vaccine,” Mr. Neill stated.

    The process so far has been sluggish; as of January 29, only 30 staff members at Gonzaga have been vaccinated, and none of them had been through D.C.’s program for educators. However, as of February 2, more teachers began to receive them through the department of health’s rollout. One of those teachers was Mr. Patrick Sullivan, religion teacher.

    “So Gonzaga was tremendously helpful in helping schedule appointments. Did I have to sit at my computer for an hour waiting for an email to arrive? And then frantically click through online portals like trying to snag a pair of front row Taylor Swift tickets? Yes and yes. But because of the support from folks here on Eye Street, I was fortunate enough to grab a slot,” Mr. Sullivan stated.

     In the end, the inefficient approach may eventually bode well for the teachers and staff of Eye Street. 

    “They intend to vaccinate our school employees regardless of where they live – which is a good thing for us, because many of our people live in Maryland and Virginia,” Mr. Neill stated.

    Mr. Neill also pointed out that, although public school teachers were scheduled to receive the vaccine first, Gonzaga’s faculty and staff have been on campus every day and need to be prioritized by the District, no matter where they live. The hardest part of it all, Neill stated, is staying patient.

    “And ultimately, that’s the biggest obstacle on the horizon for all of us – staying patient as a process that inherently is going to take time, and that we can’t completely control, unfolds,” Mr. Neill stated.

    The end goal for this process is to get students back on campus as safely and frequently as possible. The teachers want the students back on campus, and students want to be on campus. Unfortunately, Mr. Neill was unsure if the vaccine rollout would increase the amount of time students spend on campus.

    “We’ve been cautioned by D.C. Health not to overestimate the immediate impact that teachers being vaccinated will have on the health and safety practices that underpin the hybrid model. So, changes to the hybrid model won’t come as an immediate effect of the vaccine,” he explained.

    The only sure way, Mr. Neill stated, to increase time on campus is to keep showing up whenever students can.

    “That said, I know Mr. Every and Mr. Kilroy and lots of others are continually looking for opportunities to get more guys on campus together — and that if an opportunity comes up to enhance the hybrid model, they’ll jump on it if they can do it in a way that’s safe and smart,” he stated.

    The vaccine rollout will continue to be a challenge, but Mr. Neill and others around campus are remaining positive and trying to see God in all things.

    “God’s work is still alive and well here on Eye Street — slower than we’d all like, not at the volume we all wish — but still very much present. And amidst the challenges and obstacles, and the impatience all of us here feel to get back to the Gonzaga we all love full strength, that’s a reassuring reality,” Mr. Neill stated.

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      Leslie KeiserFeb 11, 2021 at 5:29 pm

      Very informative. Thanks.