By Danielle Ray, Senior Reporter

Over 700 Wachusett Regional School District staff received the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on March 17 and the second dose on April 9 at Naquag Elementary School in Rutland. 

WRSD Superintendent Darryll McCall said the large-scale staff vaccination was provided “thanks to the efforts of the Rutland vaccination team and our own administration.”

With all the district nurses assisting with administering vaccinations, all schools across the district were asynchronous learning on March 17. That clinic began at 8 a.m. and by 3 p.m. 725 staff members had been vaccinated. The same staff who received their first shot in March returned to Naquag for their second shot on April 9, with appointments after school hours from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

“Having staff (vaccinated) will provide a level of safety to our teachers, administration, and support staff that goes beyond the various mitigation measures we have in place to protect against COVID,” McCall said. 

There are 1,044 total district staff. While some of them had already been vaccinated prior to the first clinic in March, Thomas Prince School Principal Tammy Boyle is one of hundreds of district staff who were vaccinated in Rutland.  

“I feel very fortunate that our district and the town of Rutland’s vaccination team were able to coordinate this massive effort to vaccinate our district staff members,” Boyle said. “A huge thanks to SEL Director Brendan Keenan and Naquag Principal Dixie Estes for all of their behind-the-scenes efforts. Thank you to our district school nurses for taking great care of each and every vaccine recipient, and thanks to the countless others who made this happen.”

Boyle said the clinic “ran very smoothly” and all recipients received a WRSD mask. 

As a collaborative vaccine clinic site, well over 15,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Rutland since the first public vaccination clinic on February 9 and that number keeps growing. Most of the clinics are being held at the Rutland Public Library on Main St. 

“We also have been doing home visits to people who are not able to leave their homes to come to a clinic due to mobility or other health issues,” said Rutland firefighter/paramedic Erin Cullinane, who helps administer the vaccine at the collaborative clinic and runs the social media page for the fire department. She added that they have also done drive through first responder clinics at the Rutland fire station like one she was part of at the Sterling fire station. 

“The Rutland Fire Department has been working with the Rutland Board of Health to execute multiple vaccine clinics in town and in our surrounding communities, including the one we did at the senior center in Sterling,” she said. 

According to Cullinane, the Department of Public Health has committed 2,340 doses to their vaccine clinics each week. 

“Our goal is to obtain 3,750 doses or greater each week as the vaccine becomes more available,” she said. 

Rutland has a large freezer for vaccine doses storage that was purchased through a federal grant. 

“The freezer has the capacity to hold over 50,000 doses of the vaccine,” Cullinane said. “The vaccines are stored at -80 degrees Celsius.”

Cullinane said they were glad to be able to provide district staff with the opportunity to be vaccinated. 

“One of the many things that we miss since COVID began is seeing the students, teachers, and faculty at our schools,” Cullinane said. “We miss doing fire safety classes, ‘High-Five Fridays’, or even just stopping by to say hello to the children. We believe that vaccinating teachers and faculty is one big step closer to seeing our friends at school again.”