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After Anxious Year, SD Teachers Now Receiving Vaccinations

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As the coronavirus spread across South Dakota last year, the state's public universities put mask mandates in place. But the South Dakota Department of Education allowed K-12 districts to make their own decisions. (Adobe Stock)
As the coronavirus spread across South Dakota last year, the state's public universities put mask mandates in place. But the South Dakota Department of Education allowed K-12 districts to make their own decisions. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
March 12, 2021

RAPID CITY, S.D. - South Dakota teachers can now get their COVID vaccinations as new eligibility phases kick in.

In a state that prioritized reopening schools last fall, educators are expressing relief - including those who kept working under distance-learning models. Teachers are in the latest priority group for vaccinations, according to the state health department.

Either through the Federal Pharmacy Program or through state providers, staff across the state are taking advantage - including Carol Waider, who teaches second-grade in Meade County near Rapid City.

She said throughout the academic year, she's felt a lot of pressure to follow safety protocols so she could keep going into the classroom.

"I know that my students need me, and I know that I am the best resource for them in the classroom," said Waider. "So, just by having this vaccine takes a lot of that pressure off of being afraid of getting sick and missing out on that critical learning."

She said they're still trying to catch up from lost time when buildings closed last spring.

This year, case spikes forced some South Dakota districts to temporarily shift to distance learning or hybrid models, although many stayed open. Staff say the vaccinations open the door to one-on-one sessions with students that didn't return to the classroom.

Some tribal schools have stuck with remote learning. Tess Canet, who teaches at an elementary school in Todd County on the Rosebud Reservation, said although distance learning will continue through the spring, she's optimistic the vaccinations will at least allow for some individual face time.

"I'm hoping that this helps parents know that it's safer for their kids to be with me, and me to be with them," said Canet.

She described the past year as very challenging, given the spotty internet connections and trying to reach students whose parents are juggling jobs and their children's needs.

South Dakota Education Association President Loren Paul adds the latest development should help with teacher morale, given the extra anxiety of recent months.

"It's kind of hard to come back into the classroom and have all the unknowns," said Paul.

Disclosure: South Dakota Education Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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