Eureka Springs schools vaccinate 100 employees

Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Eureka Springs School District staff members received their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday, Jan. 27, with the help of Poynor Drug and Economy Drug. Pictured from left to right are Rebekah Hearn of Poynor Drug, Spencer Mabry of Economy Drug and school nurses Meghan Wolfinbarger and Kevin Vaverka.
Submitted photo

The Eureka Springs School District held a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 27, offering the vaccine to staff from the Academy of Excellence and Clear Spring School.

Eureka Springs school nurse Kevin Vaverka said around 100 employees were given the Moderna vaccine at the clinic. According to Eureka Springs superintendent Bryan Pruitt, 70 of those employees work for the Eureka Springs School District. Pruitt said that's 60 percent of the employees in the district. The remaining 30 employees work at Clear Spring School and the Academy of Excellence, Pruitt said.

"We had a big number turnout of our employees. A lot of them were super excited to get it," Vaverka said.

Pruitt thanked Spencer Mabry of Economy Drug and Rebekah Hearn of Poynor Drug for their help with the clinic. They will return to the school on Feb. 24 for the second round of vaccines, Pruitt said. Hearn said she was happy to help out with the clinic, saying it's a personal decision to get vaccinated.

"I tell everybody who asks my opinion, 'I want you to be 100 percent sure that's what you want to do,' " Hearn said. "I don't want people coming in here unsure, but I also know it's hard to make an informed decision when all you see in the media is people pushing their own agenda."

Hearn said the vaccine wouldn't be available if it weren't safe. So far, she said she has given the vaccine to employees at all three school districts in Carroll County.

"I truly don't believe we would have gotten to this point if it wasn't safe," Hearn said. "It's not a live vaccine, so it's not going to make you sick. Your body will get an immunity response and you want it to. You want your body to fight it. I think people are hesitant to get it because they don't want to be sick afterward."

Vaverka said he's heard reports of employees having sore arms, but there have been few adverse side effects.

"We've had minimal side effects overall," Vaverka said. "It's nothing crazy."

Pruitt said the district held a virtual learning day during the vaccine clinic so teachers could relax and help students who are still learning at home.

"It gave our staff a break. They didn't still have to do lessons that day," Pruitt said. "When we do our second round, we're probably going to pivot again to virtual learning that day."

Pruitt said the vaccine clinic was open to Clear Spring School and the Academy of Excellence because "we like to think of them as partners in our community." Jessica FitzPatrick, Clear Spring School's head of school, said her staff was grateful to be included. Clear Spring School has held virtual learning in January, FitzPatrick said, and plans to resume in-person instruction on Feb. 15.

"Part of the reason I feel good about going back to in-person school is that our staff could get the vaccination," FitzPatrick said. "It made a big difference in deciding to go back to school."

Joan Smith, interim principal at the Academy of Excellence, said her staff was excited about the vaccine, too.

"We are just grateful to Eureka Springs to make that opportunity available for us for people who want that option," Smith said. "That's something each person kind of has different views about. We were just so grateful it was out there and anyone from our team could go and take advantage."

Eureka Springs High School principal David Gilmore said it's a "major sense of relief" to have the first round of vaccines completed.

"It gives us that extra measure. Especially after we take the second one, we will hopefully be at a very low rate of possibly getting COVID, Gilmore said.

Gilmore said he's preparing plans for next year's instruction, saying he hopes the vaccine makes more in-person instruction possible.

"I know most of our teachers are ready to have the kids back on campus," Gilmore said. "They feel like it's a much better way to educate."

Hearn said she's excited for more community members to get vaccinated.

"We've lost a lot of people in the community. We've lost a bunch of customers at the pharmacy," Hearn said. "We can't keep going on like this."

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