Duluth, Proctor Superintendents Disappointed in Slow Federal Vaccine Rollout

Duluth School District is only getting 32 vaccines to start, and Proctor is only getting 10.

DULUTH/PROCTOR, Minn.- While Gov. Tim Walz announced Monday the state will open up vaccines to the elderly, education and child care workers in the coming weeks, Northland school leaders said they feel disheartened that the vaccines they’re getting to start barely scratch the surface.

“Quite honestly I was really hopeful that it would be broader,” said Duluth Schools Superintendent John Magas.

Monday’s announcement comes after Walz criticized the Trump Administration for “lying” about speeding up distribution from a national stockpile.

Walz says the state will open nine community sites this week to vaccinate adults over 65, pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade educators, school staff, and child care workers.

Before the Governor’s press conference, school leaders got the news of how many vaccines they’d be getting with the new rollout.

For ISD 709 in Duluth: only 32 shots, for now.

“I think that when we heard earlier this month that we would be having educators receiving vaccinations by the end of the month or early February,” Magas said.“So it was a little disappointing that it was only 32 vaccines.”

“But I am happy to hear that it’s part of putting together the structure for serving all the educators,” he said.

A small dent, in a district with more than a dozen schools full of teachers and faculty. “I’m hoping that things are gonna move more quickly than that 4.5 month estimate,” he said.

Meanwhile, the smaller Proctor Public School district’s first allotment: a little more than a handful of vaccines.

“We have about 350 employees, and we received 10,” said Superintendent John Engelking.

Engelking said he’s more frustrated that the situation is dire statewide. The new plan puts more than one million additional Minnesotans on the list to get a shot, but only 12 thousand doses will be available this week because of a nationwide shortage.

“The promise of vaccines has fallen off the table a little bit,” said the Proctor District leader.

“And so when the state gets 6,000 vaccines to share with the entire state it’s understandable that there’s gonna be quite a bit of shortage,” he said. “So we just need to do much, much better with the quantities that we’re promised.”

Both superintendents say they received guidance from state and federal health officials on how they should prioritize this first small group. “We look at age, we look at risk, and exposure, health concerns and learning models,” said Engelking.

“Individuals who have the closest contact with our students, people who have hands-on, sometimes some of our staff who are working really directly with students with high special needs,” Magas said.

Still, both said any step toward vaccinating educators and staff, is a right one.

“Even though the amount of the vaccines are very limited, we’re hopeful that things will improve and we’ll be able to roll out some meaningful change,” said Superintendent Engelking.

Despite their disappointment both superintendents said plans to welcome students back to school — some as soon as next week — are still going strong.

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