Louisiana teachers and school staff feel gratitude and relief after receiving COVID-19 vaccine

By: - March 1, 2021 8:52 am

Monique Egana, a staff member at Lake Forest Charter School in New Orleans, gets her (Photo courtesy of Mardele Early)

Lauren Jewett, a New Orleans K-8 special education teacher, said it’s been an anxiety-ridden year for her and her fellow teachers. Throughout the school year, Jewett had to alternate between teaching virtually and in-person, and when students and staff were in the school building, she worried about her and her colleague’s safety.

“I was anxious about how kids would do with wearing masks and all the new routines,” Jewett said during a phone conversation last week. 

So when Jewett and her fellow teachers and staff got their COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Feb. 22, the first day teachers and school staff became eligible, Jewett was “so full of gratitude” that she was able to get the shot so soon and hopes other educators can get their vaccine as soon as possible.

“Educators are working really hard, and I just wish (the COVID-19 vaccine) was offered to every educator” without a long waiting period, she said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced on Feb. 18 that teachers and school staff were added to the list of people in Louisiana eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

School systems across the state have been partnering with local vaccine providers to sign teachers up to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they want it. East Baton Rouge teachers and staff were given an online survey by Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health Centers to schedule and administer doses.

Taslin Alfonzo, director of media relations for NOLA Public Schools, said the school system began preparing for teacher vaccination administration “weeks ago.” The school system will randomly distribute vaccines to 47 different school organizations in New Orleans, Alfonzo said, “as a way to keep the process as equitable as possible.”

“We do anticipate vaccinating approximately 750 school teachers and staff in our first week of vaccinations,” Alfonzo said. “Teachers and staff will be able to access the vaccine by signing up through an online portal with Children’s Hospital or by a mobile vaccination van provided by New Orleans East Hospital visiting their school.”

Lake Forest Charter School in New Orleans East was one of the schools that New Orleans East Hospital visited the morning of Feb. 22, Mardele Early, founder and CEO of Lake Forest Charter School, said. She said vaccine distribution “went really well” and everyone who wanted a vaccine was able to get one.

“Teachers were very appreciative and excited and happy,” Early said. “There was a sense of relief now that they had some protection as much as we can be protected from COVID-19.”

But even with protection from vaccines, Early said there’s still always some level of anxiety during the pandemic.

“We still have to social distance, wear their masks and follow all the CDC protocols, but just having a vaccine in their arm was such a relief,” she said.

Teachers are looking forward to schools being back 100 percent in-person, Early said, and getting back to doing what they love: interacting with students.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.