First group of local teachers receive COVID-19 vaccine in Hayden |

First group of local teachers receive COVID-19 vaccine in Hayden

The Routt County Public Health Department set up in the elementary gym at Hayden School, with three different nurses vaccinating educators and chairs for them to wait the 15 minutes before they can return to the classroom. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

Back in November the Hayden School District shifted to remote learning prior to Thanksgiving because of the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the school. A few days after that Kevin Kleckler, a welding teacher at the school, felt like he couldn’t breathe.

“It was awful. I ended up in the emergency room twice,” Kleckler said, relating his experience with getting COVID-19 late last year. “It really kicked my butt.”

After surviving a serious case of the virus, which required him to spend about a month on oxygen at night, Kleckler received the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

In the elementary gym of Hayden School, the Routt County Public Health Department vaccinated 60 people on Monday, 34 of them teachers. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

“I am like almost giddy,” Kleckler said moments after he got his shot. “I’m hoping that it means that all of us will be healthier and just get back to normal maybe one day soon.”

Hayden School District teachers and other school employees shuffled into the elementary gym where the Routt County Public Health Department vaccinated 60 staff members, 34 of them being teachers. Superintendent Christy Sinner said this number represents about two-thirds of the school’s employees, with some not being able to make Monday’s vaccination clinic and others opting not to get the vaccine at this time.

“I think between all of the providers that we have in the community, we are able to pool and resource and get the majority of the school districts done this week,” said Roberta Smith, Routt County Public Health director.

Educators in the Steamboat Springs School District are slated to get their first dose of the vaccine Friday through UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. Smith said she anticipates teachers in South Routt County Schools to be vaccinated Thursday through the South Routt Medical Center in Oak Creek.

For Hayden it all came together rather quickly. Sinner said Smith called her Thursday to say the county had available vaccines. Sinner told her the district would be ready Monday.

“I already had a list of who wanted to get a shot, so I just created a schedule so we could have subs roving and everybody can come, get their shot, sit for 15 minutes,” Sinner said. “Two hours, 60 of them done.”

Kevin Kleckler survived a bout with COVID-19 late last year, and on Monday the Hayden School welding teacher got the first dose of the vaccine. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

Vaccinating teachers has been on county public health officials’ priority list since vaccinations first started, but state guidelines have required older members of the community to be prioritized first. Smith said more than half of county residents, age 70 and older, have been vaccinated so far, and changes to state guidelines started allowing teachers to get the vaccine Monday.

“It is so important to get our kids back into class, and they (teachers) are probably one of the most essential after health care worker roles,” Smith said. “Being able to vaccinate them is going to help them focus on our kids’ education and getting them back in the classroom.”

Smith said she loves being a nurse, much preferring vaccinations to Zoom meetings, because it allows her to see public health in action.

Georgie Weber, a RN who works at the Hayden School once a week, said it was really fun to vaccinate people she gets to see every week.

“People are so excited to be here,” Weber said. “It is just cool to be a part of something like this. Everyone is smiling.”

Steven McDonald, principal at the elementary school, said while his vaccine felt just like a normal flu shot, it is a huge thing for the school.

“I think it is us being proactive and doing everything we can to stay open in person, because that is a huge deal to our community to be able to go to school every day, uninterrupted,” McDonald said.

As someone with higher risk factors, Christa Kline said she has worried about potentially passing the virus to her preschool students, who could then pass it to members of their family. She said she hopes getting the vaccine will make it less likely the school will have to shut down going forward.

For second-grade teacher Suzanne Hatch, she hopes the vaccine will start to usher in more normalcy.

“We have been trying to keep normalcy here at Hayden, but who ever would have thunk, a year in masks?” Hatch said. “Were closer to the light at the end of the tunnel where we see normalcy coming back, I hope.”

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