Algonquin's District 300 staff relieved, excited to get COVID-19 vaccine
Keeping their students safe. Seeing elderly relatives. Getting another step closer to "normal."
These are just a few of the reasons Community Unit District 300 staff members said they got the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday.
Walking out of the board room of District 300's Central Office, where vaccinations were taking place, Amanda Minster, a fourth-grade teacher at Wright Elementary School, said she almost wanted to cry a little because she was so relieved.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful, Minster said, and with the vaccines, she felt like she reaching the other side of the stress.
"If we all can get our vaccinations, then we move beyond this horrible last year we've had," she said.
About 120 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was administered to staff from Hampshire and Wright elementary schools Thursday, a week after they were given to staff at Neubert and Eastview elementary schools.
The decision to vaccinate staff at these schools first was based on the class sizes and programs offered at the elementary schools, Anthony McGinn, the district's spokesman, previously told the Northwest Herald. Neubert, Eastview, Hampshire and Wright also have a higher percentage of special needs and medically fragile students.
The vaccines were provided by Greater Elgin Family Care Center.
District 300 schools have been in hybrid learning, which involves students being in the classroom for part of the school week, since January, after spending most of last year remote because of COVID-19.
Minster has 19 children in-person in her classroom.
"Do I want them to be there? Yes. But am I terrified that something bad could happen to me or to one of my students? Yes," she said. "That's another reason why I'm so relieved today to get the vaccine, to be moving forward."
While students have some in-person class time, it is still "far from normal," Minster said. The students have plexiglass around them. They sometimes have trouble seeing the board or hearing what Minster is saying, so she bought a little voice amplifier microphone.
Though Minster wants to be kind, nurturing and welcoming to her students, it can be challenging to do this while staying 6 feet apart to social distance and while wearing masks.
Ensuring safety precautions are followed seriously, but not causing panic for her students, is also hard, Minster said.
"I want to be fun and make learning fun," she said.
Jennifer Nolan, a first-grade teacher at Hampshire, also got vaccinated Thursday. She said students have been resilient and have been working hard.
"It's always developing and changing, but it's going as well as can be expected," Nolan said.
Knowing that things will continue to evolve when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nolan said, she wanted to make sure her classroom keeps moving forward, which is why she got vaccinated.
Vaccination is an important step to getting as close to normal as possible, she said.
"I feel fine," Nolan said, after getting the shot. "I didn't even know it happened. She was already putting a Band-Aid on, and I said, 'Are you done?' And she said, 'yeah, I'm done.' I didn't even feel it."
Susan Henrickson, a paraprofessional at Hampshire Elementary school, said she also felt "great" after getting the shot.
Her husband's parents are older, and it's been a while since they've seen them. Henrickson also has extended family who doesn't live with her.
"We want to be around people again and feel safe," she said. "That's why I got the vaccination."
Minster is also hoping to keep her loved ones healthy by getting the vaccine. Her parents, who are both over 65, live with her, and she's the single mom of a teenager.
"Going to school and then coming home every day, I'm risking not just my health and safety, but theirs as well. That's where most of my stress comes from," she said.
Karen Ellis, a special education paraprofessional at Wright, said she's thankful for the opportunity to get vaccinated and having students back in the classroom has been "wonderful."
"I want to stay healthy and safe, and there's so much we don't know about COVID and the effects of it," she said. "I just want to protect myself and my family."
Getting the vaccination made Ellis feel like she had an "extra layer of protection."
"We do the social distancing. We wear our masks, make sure we sanitize and wash hands," Ellis said. "This is just another layer of defense."