'Historic event': Nearly all Darien school staff get at least first COVID vaccine dose

DARIEN — Schools Superintendent Alan Addley described the town’s two-day COVID vaccination clinic for the district’s school staff “a historic event.”

“They did a great job. It was a good culmination of the first week that getting all students back in school,” Addley said.

Darien Health Department Director David Knauf said 670 school staff members received the vaccine Friday and Saturday during the two-day clinics.

“Bottom line, this was a fine example of a collaborative effort between the town and school officials with excellent outcomes. People were so relieved to be vaccinated,” he said.

Addley said he and the school staff are grateful to have the town’s health department, the teacher volunteers and nurses handle the vaccine clinic so “expeditiously.”

Between the clinic and the number of teachers who were vaccinated due to earlier eligibility, Addley said nearly all of the staff members have received at least their first dose.

The vibe at the clinic, according to Addley, was one of “optimism, gratitude, appreciation and enthusiasm.”

“It was a wee bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” Addley said.

After receiving guidance from the state Department of Public Health, Darien prioritized school staff members and will hold a “mega-clinic” for second doses at Town Hall on April 3, Knauf said.

Knauf said the town is following the state directive and focusing on getting school staff members fully vaccinated over the next couple of weeks.

“We are not offering vaccine to the public until we finish with teachers and then expect to offer vaccine through VAMS. We are not maintaining a wait list or taking appointments except for anyone over 65,” Knauf said.

Darien has been holding vaccine clinics at the Mather Community Center gymnasium, and First Selectman Jayme Stevenson announced last week the clinic would be focused on school staff.

“All the nurses and volunteers did a fantastic job this weekend,” Stevenson said.

Darien Education Association President Joslyn DeLancey, who was scheduled to receive her vaccine at the same time as Addley, said teachers and staff members were “so excited and happy” to get vaccinated. She said it was the first time in nearly a year many of them had seen each other.

“The clinic was well run and organized with volunteers from the community, teachers, and even students from Post 53,” DeLancey said.

She said the teachers union is “so grateful to our community for committing to finding ways to hear our concerns and putting conditions in place to keep us safe.”

DeLancey said this was another step in getting schools back to full-time in-person learning.

“You couldn’t see my smile behind the mask, but trust me it is ear to ear and will be for a while,” she said.

Addley said the teachers’ vaccine clinic had a larger impact.

“It’s good for the staff, and good for the kids — and therefore, its good for the community,” he said.