MERIDEN — If school district employees are opposed to the newly imposed state vaccine and testing mandates, that opposition appears to be rather muted.
Officials reported more than 90 percent of staff — including teachers, classroom aides, administrators, custodians and other staff — are either fully or partially vaccinated.
That percentage appears comparable, if not better, than statewide averages. The Connecticut Education Association – the state’s largest teachers’ union – surveyed its own membership. About 89 percent of survey respondents indicated they were fully vaccinated. The survey was administered in late August.
Louis Bronk, Meriden Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for personnel and talent development, said that as of Monday, just under 8 percent of district staff have not shown proof of vaccination.
Around 100 of the district’s roughly 1,150 employees are required to undergo testing right now, Bronk said, adding he anticipates that number will shrink.
Bronk attributed the district’s high vaccination rates to its partnership with the Meriden Department of Health and Human Services.
District and local health officials collaborated on vaccination clinics in school buildings, “to make sure people had access to vaccinations,” Bronk said.
Lauren Mancini-Averitt, president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers, said she has heard from a few union members who don’t plan on getting vaccinations. None of them have said they intend to resign because of the mandates, she said.
Mancini-Averitt attributed that in part to the ongoing dialogue between the union, district administrators and health officials. When union members have questions about vaccines and data, they receive answers and information from health officials, she said.
“They’ve returned every phone call, they returned every email,” Mancini-Averitt said.
Bronk described health officials as having been a resource for educators.
“They have definitely had individual conversations with staff. They definitely have been a great resource for anybody who’s had questions,” he said.
Lea Crown, the city’s director of Health and Human Services, is encouraged by the city’s vaccination rates. The city has worked with the state Department of Public Health to provide free COVID-19 testing, so that the unvaccinated can comply with the testing requirement.
That drive-thru testing site is located at 13 Orange St. It’s open 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Crown said turnaround time for testing is no more than 48 hours.
City Councilor Bob Williams Jr., of the We The People Party, sits on the council’s Human Services Committee, which receives regular reports from the health department regarding COVID-19 spread and vaccination rates.
Williams said he has not heard from constituents, including educators, about vaccination and testing mandates. Williams is personally opposed to such mandates.
Meanwhile, fellow City Councilor Chad Cardillo, who teaches at Maloney High School, sees the vaccinations as a way to keep kids in school.
Cardillo said he’s seen anecdotally in his own classroom, teenagers are getting vaccinated at a high rate. That combined with other COVID-19 mitigation strategies, like mask wearing and ventilation, is helping to maintain in-person learning, as Cardillo sees it.