Like most school staff in Idaho and around the country, Christen Potter, a school nurse at Les Bois Junior High School in Boise, found the fall of 2020 much different than those in her previous years working in schools.
Nearly every aspect of the job involved the coronavirus, and interacting with students was much different. Potter spent more of her time doing contact tracing and notifying students or staff to quarantine, rather than seeing students face-to-face.
“It was kind of like getting a new job,” Potter told the Statesman in a phone interview.
When Potter was offered a coronavirus vaccine in January, she jumped at the chance. The vast majority of Boise School District staff received their vaccines as well, according to statistics from the district.
“People were very, very anxious to get vaccinated,” Potter said. “We really saw that as a way to heal our community, and be able to get back to doing what we do best, which is … in-person education.”
The CDC reported earlier this month that nearly 80% of teachers, school staff and child care providers nationwide had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to statistics provided to the Idaho Statesman, the Boise School District reported 82% of its staff had at least one dose of the vaccine prior to the district’s spring break, which began March 22.
Numbers from the West Ada School District’s most recent survey — which took place from Jan. 27 to Feb. 6 — featured responses from 2,880 staff members, according to figures supplied by the school district. Of that number, 2,034 — or 70.6% of staff — indicated they received the COVID-19 vaccine, with an additional 168 — or 5.8% — saying they had an appointment scheduled.
For the remaining 678 staffers who filled out the survey, 404 — or 14% — indicated they did not plan on making an appointment to get the vaccine. An additional 192 — or 6.7% — indicated they were not sure if they would make an appointment to receive the immunization.
West Ada’s board of trustees voted in February to bring back students in grades 6-12 of Idaho’s largest school district back into classrooms four days a week, with Mondays being set aside for remote learning through the end of the semester. District officials said during the Feb. 9 meeting that the target return date of March 30 would allow staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine, along with two weeks after second doses to reach peak immunity. Students returned to classrooms on the target date of March 30.
Students in the Boise School District, the state’s second largest, returned to classrooms five days a week on March 29, after over a year of learning remotely or on a hybrid schedule.
With a large portion of staff being vaccinated and students being back in classrooms, albeit with masks and physical distancing, Potter said it feels like she’s getting back into a regular work pattern. Her days feel more like those before the pandemic. Getting her vaccine was one of the keys to returning to a more normal routine.
“It just seemed like the right thing for our community,” Potter said.