Log In

Reset Password
Viviani rolls to Stage 4 victory Skyhawks set up at Whalen Gymnasium

Durango School District rolls out vaccines, testing program

Students can receive pediatric doses at school clinics starting later this week
Julie Cifuni, school nurse at Mountain Middle School, swabs Roman Barela, 12, a sixth grader at the school, with a COVID-19 rapid test. Durango School District 9-R is relying on vaccines, serial testing and other mitigation strategies to limit COVID-19 outbreaks, said Julie Popp, spokeswoman for the district. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Durango School District 9-R says vaccines will be available for 5- to 11-year-old students later this week at elementary schools. The vaccines come shortly after the district announced a compensatory testing program in three schools.

“The approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for young children is an important step to helping reduce our risk for infection and transmission in our schools and our community,” Julie Popp, spokeswoman for the school district, wrote in an announcement.

The district is currently seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases in children 6 to 11 years old, Popp said.

“They’re the most vulnerable population due to the lack of vaccine availability for that age group,” she said.

San Juan Basin Public Health will run the school vaccine clinics in partnership with the district. Each site will offer pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine, but also Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for students, family members and school staff members.

“We are focusing on 5- to 11-year-olds, but family members of those students, as well as staff of our schools, are also welcome to take advantage,” Popp said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved Pfizer’s pediatric dose Nov. 2.

“We’re a conduit for the community and it makes it really accessible for families, especially with young children, to access clinics when they’re at their neighborhood school,” Popp said.

Vaccines can be found at these times and locations:

  • 2-6 p.m. Thursday, Park Elementary School.
  • 2-6 p.m. Friday, Florida Mesa Elementary School.
  • 2-6 p.m. Friday, Riverview Elementary School.
  • 2-6 p.m. Nov. 16, Juniper School.
  • 2-6 p.m. Nov. 17, Needham Elementary School.
  • 2-6 p.m. Nov. 17, Sunnyside Elementary School.
  • 2-6 p.m. Nov. 18, Animas Valley Elementary School.
  • 2-6 p.m. Nov. 18, Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary School.

“By allowing 5- to 11-year-olds to access a pediatric dose, we are protecting children from severe illness and hospitalization,” said Liane Jollon, executive director of SJBPH.

“We are potentially lowering transmission within families and within family gatherings,” she said.

In October, Durango School District also announced it was piloting a new Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment testing program at three schools.

Park Elementary School, Escalante Middle School and Durango High School are each enrolled in the free and voluntary program, which pays students $25 for their first COVID-19 test and $10 for weekly tests.

“Weekly COVID testing provides our school district with an extra layer of prevention,” Vanessa Giddings, director of student support services for the district, said in a statement. “It allows us to detect infections early and proactively get ahead of any potential COVID-19 outbreaks. This strategy combined with the other measures we have in place helps our students continue in-person learning.”

The antigen testing is administered through a state contractor and funded by the American Rescue Plan Act’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Reopening Schools grants.

Students younger than 18 must obtain parental or guardian consent and parents may choose to opt out of the financial incentives, according to the district’s announcement.

All students are eligible regardless of their vaccination status. Staff members are also eligible for testing, though they will not receive the financial incentives.

Participating students will receive a gift card monthly with their incentives, according to CDPHE.

As of Oct. 21, 48 students were in quarantine across the district, in contrast to the about 2,000 in quarantine this time last year, Popp said.

“We obviously chalk that up to all of the layers of mitigation strategies that we have,” Popp said. “And that includes masking and vaccinations, or regular serial testing if you are unable to get the vaccination for any reason or choose not to.”

At Durango High School, 141 students are currently enrolled in the testing program, Popp said. At Escalante Middle School, 101 students have enrolled and at Park Elementary School 41 students have opted in.

“We’re really into these mitigation strategies,” she said. “We feel very strongly that because of these mitigation strategies we’ve implemented we haven’t had a large quarantine or closure.”


Reader Comments