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School districts planning as teachers become eligible for vaccines

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Dodgeville high school

DODGEVILLE (WKOW) -- The Department of Health Services announced Tuesday Wisconsin's teachers are included in the next phase of people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Their eligibility begins March 1.

"It's a game changer for us," Paul Weber, Dodgeville's District Administrator, said. "People just really want the shot. They just feel that it's going to provide that extra safety net for them in being in the building and working with students."

Weber said the district surveyed its staff and 91% of respondents said they want to get the vaccine.

"We think we have a good idea of how many people are going to be taking the shot and how many people are not going to take the shot," he said. "It's just really the logistics of the county telling us where it's going to happen and when is it going to happen." 

He said district administrators have weekly planning meetings with Iowa County Public Health about how teachers and other school staff will get their shots. But Weber said he isn't yet sure if public health officials will administer the shots or if they will act as an intermediary between the school district and Upland Hills Health.

Though some details still have to be ironed out, Weber said most people working in the district are excited about Tuesday's announcement.

"To finally get some type of definitive date at least gives us some hope that it's coming," he said.

But Weber acknowledged many teachers might not get shots right when their eligibility starts because of a limited supply of doses.

"If we can start putting needles in arms March 1, I'd be happy," he said. "But it wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't until the end of March before all of our staff are vaccinated."

But not every district expressed the same excitement as Weber following DHS' announcement.

"We were disappointed to hear this might not take place until March 1," Perry Hibner, a spokesperson for the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, said in an email. "Many of our educators hoped to at least have their first vaccination before returning to schools, but based on the latest timeline, it appears our elementary and middle school staff will be in buildings with students before that happens."

Hibner told 27 News the district is not planning any vaccine clinics for its staff because of guidance from DHS and Public Health Madison and Dane County. He said the district does have a list of all staff members who will be part of the next phase of vaccinations.

Weber said Dodgeville also has a similar list. He said Iowa County Public Health asked the district to create a priority list that health officials could use if they have shots that need to be used quickly before they spoil.

"Most of the time, that would include people who have closer contact with students," Weber said. He said that group includes food service staff and staff members who move between buildings.

Weber said he feels relieved to know his staff have a solid date for when their eligibility will start, particularly as he's had to watch other districts receive vaccines ahead of schedule.

"There was some disappointment and some confusion of why why them and not us," he said. "It doesn't sit well, but at the same time, we have to understand that this is the way it is, and we just have to be patient and wait our turn."

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Caroline Dade

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist, 27 News

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