Stein column: Roaring Fork Schools are pro-science, pro-civics, and pro-vaccines
Our goal in the Roaring Fork Schools is to get all employees vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as possible. Colorado’s decision to move frontline essential education workers to phase 1B in the vaccine rollout is a validation of the vital role that our educators play in our society and a recognition of the risks that our staff have been taking to keep our children in school.
Because we think it is the best service we can offer to keep our staff and students safe, and to help the whole community, the school district is handling all of the sign-ups, scheduling and other logistics to make sure our staff can get vaccinated.
Some have asked why we are taking such an active role in promoting the vaccines. Shouldn’t we stay neutral? Well, when we teach science in our schools, we teach our students to think scientifically, not to ignore scientific evidence or defy scientific facts. When we teach civics, we teach about our civic duties and ways to serve our country. Just as we aren’t neutral about science and civics in our schools, we are pro-science and pro-civics in our values and actions as an institution.
Before asking staff to sign up, we felt it important to educate our staff members about the vaccines and to dispel any misconceptions. We provided access to a range of scientific perspectives from trusted authorities such as the CDC and CDPHE, and we invited two local physicians, Dr. David Brooks from Valley View Hospital, and Dr. Maria Roques from Mountain Family Health Centers, to explain the vaccinations to our staff and answer their particular questions.
By educating ourselves, we’ve learned four key lessons:
First, the vaccines are effective. The vaccines currently being administered to protect against Covid-19 have proven 94-95% effective at preventing people from getting the disease. Experts also say that getting the vaccine may help keep people from getting seriously ill even if they do get Covid-19.
Second, the vaccines are safe. Thousands of people were given the vaccine through closely monitored clinical trials, and now millions have safely taken them. Neither of the vaccines contain the live virus, so it is impossible for the vaccine to give you the disease. The side effects for most people are mild, and for those rare few who had more severe reactions, they have all been treatable. Nobody has died from the vaccine, whereas thousands are dying every day from the disease.
Third, the vaccines keep others safe. Getting vaccinated yourself will also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19 and groups that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. That’s why we feel a responsibility to assist in getting our staff members vaccinated, and to support the effort as vaccines become broadly available to all.
Finally, vaccines are the path to getting back to normal. The Covid-19 vaccine will help end the pandemic much sooner and with fewer lives lost. Once enough people get vaccinated to lower the number of cases in the community, not only will students miss less school due to quarantines, but everybody will be able to return to things we used to enjoy, like band concerts, watching ball games, school dances, and graduations.
So far, the effort to roll out vaccines in our region has gone much more smoothly than in other parts of the country. While supplies flowing into our state and counties are still limited, our local vaccination teams have been modeling efficiency in scheduling appointments and getting shots into arms. When our turn comes, we know they will be ready.
We are committed as a school district to student and staff wellness. This includes health and physical education programs, healthy meals, health benefits for employees, school-based health services and a staff wellness program.
The simple effort to get vaccinated is an investment in the health and well being of our students, staff and community. We’ll be doing our parts, and when your turn comes, we hope you will choose to do yours.
Rob Stein is Superintendent of the Roaring Fork District Schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.
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