All CUSD employees are given access to vaccine

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Each of Claremont Unified School District’s roughly 1,050 employees was given access to the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this week, further clearing the way for elementary schools to reopen April 12.

The district partnered with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center for the clinic for CUSD employees, which ran Monday through Thursday.

Previous educational staff clinics saw between 70 and 75 percent of eligible employees get the vaccine, according to the hospital.

“So our numbers will probably fall somewhere in there,” said CUSD Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources Kevin Ward.

All those who opted in will receive the second shot of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine the third week of March.

“So that means the second shot will be able to be a full two weeks before we see students,” Mr. Ward said, “which is recommended by the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] in terms of having the most efficacy.

“So that was a very good turn of events!”

The clinic came about as a result of a stash of leftover vaccines that went unused during the first phase of inoculations at PVHMC, Mr. Ward said. This batch, combined with the amount L.A. County supplied to the hospital for local school districts meant the hospital had more than enough to vaccinate all of CUSD’s certificated, classified and administrative staff, as well as substitutes, coaches, interns and student teachers.

“So basically anyone that’s going to come into contact with our students will have access to the vaccine,” Mr. Ward said.

One of the previous points of debate with respect to reopening had to do with members of the district’s two unions, the Claremont Faculty Association (CFA) and the Claremont Chapter 200 of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) having access to COVID vaccines prior to returning to work. That issue has now been resolved

“My job, as is the case with all of us at the district office, is to make sure that the staff who work directly with our students have everything they need to ensure our student success, and the vaccine was a big thing for folks,” said Mr. Ward. “I think it’s a really important piece of getting our students back and starting to resume in person operations. So yes, it is a big item to check off the list.”

“I think that’s huge,” said CFA President Kara Evans. “It just creates a lot more confidence on the part of our members about returning to the classroom safely. It wasn’t a negotiated sticking point, but it was something that came up over and over in conversations, like, ‘I really hope we have to the opportunity to get fully vaccinated before we have the opportunity to return to the classroom.’ And it looks like that’s happening.”

Reaction from members was almost entirely positive.

“I can just anecdotally tell you that the number of teachers I’ve heard express relief about the ability to access the vaccine, versus those that said they’re going to wait and kind of see whether this really does mitigate COVID, that ratio is definitely skewed in one direction,” Ms. Evans said. “I’ve heard two or three people [out of 345 members] say they’re not going to be vaccinated. The rest are just overwhelmed with the opportunity to be vaccinated.”

Mr. Ward said 194 CUSD employees got the vaccine on Monday, 87 on Tuesday and 158 Wednesday. Though these numbers don’t appear significant considering the district’s overall employee count of about 1,050, keep in mind many had already received vaccinations from other sources prior to the clinic at PVHMC. And yes, a certain percentage—likely 25 to 30 percent—opted out.

Meanwhile, negotiations with the CSEA and CFA over revised memorandums of understanding (MOUs) appear to be about two weeks away from being finalized, according to all parties involved.

The negotiations are crucial to getting district employees back on elementary school campuses, as they aim to resolve myriad issues surrounding changes in working conditions brought about by COVID.

Though it’s not mandated, parties close to the negotiations say it’s essential the agreements be in place prior to reopening.

Amy Weiler, CSEA president, said after the details of her group’s MOU are hammered out with CUSD the document will then go through a seven- to 10-day ratification process before adopted.

If estimates of about two more weeks to complete MOU negotiations hold, that would mean CSEA’s approval process would get underway around mid-March. Adding seven to 10 days to that would put CUSD about two weeks and change away from the April 12 elementary school reopening date.

“It will be getting it close, being that we also have spring break at almost the beginning of April,” said Ms. Weiler. “But I think we’ll get it in in time. If we can get the MOU agreed upon between the district and our negotiations team within a week or a week and-a-half we’d have more time to turn it around. And I think that’s possible. I think two weeks is on the long side.”

Ms. Evans said her group looks to be a little bit closer to wrapping up the negotiations.

“I saw a draft of it yesterday and gave some notes,” Ms. Evans said. “It looks like the MOU process will be completed I would say by the beginning of next week would be my estimate.”

She described the remaining details as “pretty minor.”

“I think everybody basically is on the same page. So we’re in pretty good shape in terms of an April 12 projected reopening date.”

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