By ERIN ROLL
Just weeks after Montclair public schools, Mountainside hospital and others introduced a partnership to vaccinate dozens of school staffers a week in early March, registration for the program ended due to “decreased interest,” the school system says.
But teachers — who are eligible for vaccinations under a statewide rollout that has been opening availability to expanding categories of professions, age groups and those with certain medical conditions — can continue to get their shots at the hospital, through Essex County’s own vaccination sites or through other providers.
In all, 200 staff members participated in the partnership — first announced March 12 in a joint press conference with the school system, the hospital, Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller and the Montclair Education Association — district information secretary Jennifer Fusco said. That included staff members from the district’s pre-K center. Spiller and the other partners said at the time the program would vaccinate about 80 staffers per week.
“Our registration is closed due to decreased interest, most likely due to the county opening slots for school staff, and the ease of obtaining vaccinations throughout the region,” Fusco said by email. The last group of registered staff members will receive their first vaccinations this week, she said.
Schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds first announced the vaccine registration period had closed in a community bulletin issued March 26 — two weeks to the day after the program was announced. He urged those still seeking vaccines to register with Essex County, at essexcovid.org.
The district currently employs 1,136 total staff members, of whom 583 are teachers.
The week after the joint announcement for the Mountainside partnership, on March 19, Essex County opened up designated vaccine appointments specifically for public, private and parochial school staff in the county.
Spiller and representatives of the MEA have not yet returned a message seeking comment on the end of the Montclair-Mountainside program.
Mountainside spokesperson Chiara Marababol said several teachers in Montclair indicated they already received the vaccine due to being included in an earlier state priority group. Teachers who had certain preexisting conditions, for instance, could register for vaccinations even before eligibility was specifically opened to school staff.
For the county-run vaccinations, teachers and support staff members are required to bring their school district identification cards or badges with them.
“Receiving the COVID vaccination is the best weapon we have to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Vaccinating teachers and school support personnel is the best way for us to reopen our schools and restore in-person instruction for our children. We are pleased to offer these special and convenient times for school staff to receive their vaccinations,” county Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said.