WASHINGTON — The sounds of kitchen timers beeping and syringe packaging ripping open echoed in the Washington High School gym on Friday.
School staff sat in rows of Washington Demons chairs, chatting and laughing with fellow co-workers while counting down the 15 minutes of post-vaccine wait time.
More than 250 schoolteachers and staff were vaccinated at the mass clinic. Many expressed nervousness, but relief that the day had finally arrived.
The laughs were a common sound in the gym. Megan Jones-Schiebel, a high school English teacher, said the day was a little warmer and the mood was lighter.
“It feels like things are finally starting to get lighter and looking up,” she said.
Four stations were set up in the front half of the gym. Many of those giving vaccinations were school staff.
Staff filed in with Superintendent Willie Stone directing them to a station. The vaccinations were faster than anticipated, and the hour sessions for each school ended with downtime before the next round arrived.
Rachel Meyer, an eighth-grade social studies teacher, said she was excited but nervous about the vaccine.
She felt it was a way to get back to normal.
Jones-Schiebel said she was relieved.
“I’m not as worried about getting it myself, but I’m very worried about transferring to my parents, or my in-laws,” she said. “I just want to do what I can do to keep my people safe.”
She said she is glad the school values the teachers and provided the clinic.
Jordan Miller, a first-grade teacher, was nervous coming into the clinic, mostly because she doesn’t like shots.
Erin Smith, an assistant in the library, also said she doesn’t like shots but after it was done, she said it was relaxing.
She said she was glad it was happening.
Jim Peterson, a high school math teacher, said the shot was easy, and he didn’t feel a thing.
Deb Williams, a special education assistant, was excited to get the vaccine, asking a friend to take a photograph of her while receiving it for posterity.
She worked in the medical field for 34 years and as a respiratory therapist for 20 years.
“I’ve trusted the science all along,” she said. “We all need to do it to end the pandemic.”
The staff will received the second dose on March 19. Stone said because it is an early-out day the clinic will start at 1:10 p.m. and each school will take place in half-hour intervals.
Before receiving the vaccine, teachers were still happy to be back in school. Many teachers felt it was an opportunity for a sense of normal.
Meyer said being in person was the best option for everyone.
Jones-Schiebel said the year has been challenging, but it is much easier than teaching online.
“It’s been a tough year, but I’m glad we are here,” she said.
She has been teaching for 16 years and mentors first- and second-year teachers. The teachers would ask what to do, and she would said, “We don’t know either, but let’s try X, Y and Z.”
At almost 60, Williams said it has been a scary year. She added the kids have been wearing their masks, but sometimes they’re not, “and that’s to be expected.”
Despite the challenges, Williams said being in person has helped the attitude and mood of staff and students. It is something normal, she said.
“The interaction with the fellow employees is priceless,” she said. “We laugh, and sometimes we cry, I just think the support is so important.”