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Teachers can now start receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Denver Public Schools will send entire buildings at once to get the shots, starting with schools with the highest number of lower income families.

DENVER — Getting back in the building, back into school is key for teachers like Bernadette Leyba.

"I am an immune-compromised person. I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer," Leyba said.

She is an English language teacher at the Denver Center for 21st Century Learning and has missed working directly with kids.

"They're that driving force that gets us here every day," Leyba said. "So, without having them there, it feels empty. It feels hollow."

Feb. 8, she said, feels different as teachers across Colorado became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The state estimates there are around 120,000 teachers and staff at both public and private schools.

Denver Public Schools (DPS) began the process of vaccination by sending entire buildings at once to get the vaccine with its partner Children's Hospital Colorado. DPS spokesperson Winna Maclaren said 1,500 employees got the shot on day one.

"So, this is just a really efficient way when we go by school buildings," Maclaren said. "We can make sure that all the staff that want to get that vaccine are able to schedule within a day or two.

Maclaren said the district is picking schools with the most lower-income families first.

"With equity as one of our core values, we want to make sure that we are prioritizing those communities that really need us the most," Maclaren said. "In-person learning is critically important for those under-served populations."

RELATED: 'It was a mad dash': Jeffco teachers rush to get leftover doses at COVID-19 vaccination event

Cristina Shaikh is the assistant principal at Munroe Elementary in southwest Denver. She said students were put on a remote, asynchronous day Monday so teachers can all get the vaccine.

"It really helped us out in insuring that kids will get some sort of learning online, but we're not disrupting the whole week or multiple weeks," Shaikh said.

In other districts like Aurora, healthcare partners will reach out to staff to schedule vaccination appointments. Boulder Valley Schools is working to set up Saturday vaccination clinics. Cherry Creek and Douglas County staff will have access to appointments and may have clinics as well. The Adams 12 Five Star School District is creating a list of employees who want the vaccine and sending the list to providers who can administer the vaccine. 

The Jefferson County School District said it's working with SCL Health, Kaiser and Centura Health to provide vaccines for its teachers and other staff members. A district spokesperson said those providers employee lists and they'll reach out to invite employees for vaccines as they're available. About 3,500 employees should be able to get vaccinated each week, according to the district. If that happens, they estimate the first dose process will be complete by March 1.

"From what I experienced today, it went really smooth, really, really smooth," Leyba said.

Leyba got her shot on the first day and took the first step in coming back.

"Having the vaccine available for me makes me feel a lot better being in the classroom around students," Leyba said.

RELATED: 1,500 DPS employees offered vaccine appointments

RELATED: 'Our supply is not meeting the demand' | Counties desperate for more vaccines as number of eligible people expands

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