CHAZY — As of Friday, 88% of Chazy Central Rural School District employees and 77% of junior-senior high school students were vaccinated against COVID-19.

Superintendent Scott Osborne said the district is hoping to get things rolling for students ages 5 to 11 by hosting a clinic next month.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave pediatric doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine the green light.

"We view vaccination as one of the best ways to combat the ongoing pandemic and allow students the opportunity to continue to receive instruction in school," he told the Press-Republican.

SURGICAL APPROACH

Osborne pointed to how the power of vaccination is on display at Chazy Central this year. He noted that all three positive cases processed at the junior-senior high level this fall were unvaccinated.

"Last year, had there been a lab-confirmed positive case in our junior-senior high, we would have been quarantining entire classrooms and entire grade levels," he said.

“Now, we know who is vaccinated, so we’re able to look at seating charts and attendance records and club rosters and sports rosters to help determine close contacts.”

Osborne likened the process to using a scalpel.

“We really take a surgical approach to contact tracing. We feel our students and our parents don’t deserve any less. We do not typically do broad brush quarantining at the junior-senior high.”

ELEMENTARY IMPACT

Conversely, earlier this week the district made the decision to shift its entire elementary school to fully remote instruction from Monday, Nov. 15 until after Thanksgiving break.

Wednesday’s letter announcing the change noted that eight cases had been identified over the preceding eight days, and led to quarantine of close to half the elementary population.

Osborne said these younger members of the school — who up until recently had not been eligible for vaccination — have been disproportionately impacted by positive cases this school year.

“That’s why we are very pleased to be in discussion with the (Clinton County Health Department) to host a clinic because, in theory, 100% of half of our school system is not vaccinated, if you think about it.”

CCHD Principal Public Health Educator Molly Flynn said her agency was still waiting for more information from the state before moving forward with vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds, and has been working with local schools on possible future clinics.

"We are seeing some of our same schools that were eager the last time around eager again, which is fantastic," she said.

PERCEPTION SURVEY

That included Chazy Central who, even prior to hosting clinics for students ages 12 and up in May and June, bused eligible students who had parental consent to the Pfizer vaccination site on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

“We thought that was a good service to provide to our students and their parents,” Osborne said.

In the meantime, the district has sent out a perception survey to families of the 247 students in the elementary school which, as of Friday, had yielded 100 responses. Osborne said 58% of respondents were interested in taking advantage of a school-based clinic and 12% had already started the vaccination process elsewhere.

NIMBLE, RESPONSIVE

In May, Osborne told the Press-Republican he was on board with the CDC's guidance to relax masking for fully vaccinated students and staff, recommendations that have since been updated to include universal masking indoors at school, regardless of vaccination status.

“If you would have called me in the month of July 2021 or if we would have bumped into each other, I would have given you my campaign platform, that, yeah, I think we’re going to be able to lower masks for vaccinated students and staff with proof of vaccination," Osborne said. "And then, of course, the delta variant came along.

“Like every school around here, we continue to be nimble and responsive to what the data is showing right now.”

Osborne believes that, at some point, COVID vaccines will need to be normalized as one necessary for going to school, like the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) shot.

He recalled how, in spring 2020, as the first wave of the pandemic raged in New York City, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the North Country with its scant case count.

Now New York City, which has imposed its own mandates, consistently has a more favorable positivity rate than the North Country.

Osborne said he believes in people having a right to decide whether to get vaccinated.

“But I think when we look at the science and we look at where we are, there’s a good case for vaccination — but I also understand parents’ hesitation as well.”

Email Cara Chapman:

cchapman@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @PPR_carachapman

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