By Joanna Puddister King
MADISON – In December, when COVID vaccination dates began to open, the Office of Catholic Education began working to determine a teacher eligibility date. As vaccinations were finally opened to all K-12 school, preschool and daycare employees on March 1 by Gov. Tate Reeves, diocese benefits coordinator, Renee Carpenter worked with the St. Dominic MEA clinic on a vaccination event for Jackson Metro area teachers, staff and administrators.
On Thursday, March 11 at St. Anthony School in Madison, almost 70 first vaccinations were administered to participants from St. Anthony, St. Joseph, St. Richard, Assisi Early Learning Center, as well as Catholic Charities and the chancery, bringing a sense of relief to many.
“At first, I was unsure about the vaccine, but now that I have gotten my first shot, I feel good about getting my second,” said Robin Love, a Pre-K4 teacher at Assisi Early Learning Center.
Anne Cowger, principal of St. Anthony, said, “Diocesan teachers and staff members, under the guidance of the Office of Catholic Education, have worked incredibly hard this year to keep our schools and early learning centers open and to provide a safe and healthy environment for the children in our care. St. Anthony Catholic School was pleased to provide our gymnasium as a place for metro area employees to get vaccinated. We were honored to be able to contribute in even a small way in this effort.”
“Our schools are continuing to do everything to make teachers, parents and students feel safe. We have had strong protocols throughout the year and because of that we have had less than 200 cases of COVID-19 since opening in person in August 2020,” said interim Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Karla Luke.
Overall, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Jackson have a total of 3,049 students, not including those in Early Learning Centers. Since returning in August, Catholic schools in the diocese have required masks and implemented enhanced cleaning procedures and more, to help lessen the risk of infection from the coronavirus.
After the vaccination event, assistant superintendent, Stephanie Brown shared her thoughts.
“I am so grateful that we could put together this coordinated effort to provide the vaccine to our teachers and caretakers. These individuals have been on the front lines risking their health as they cared for and educated our children. We are so thankful to St. Dominic and Renee Carpenter in the benefits office for taking action to help protect our most valuable resource – our teachers!”
(Editor’s note: Other Catholic Schools around the diocese are also working on vaccination events. As of press time on Tuesday, March 23, over 1.2 million doses of the COVID vaccine have been distributed in Mississippi
To find a vaccination site near you, visit www.msdh.ms.gov and click on vaccinations. All Mississippians, or out-of-state residents who work in Mississippi, age 16 and over are eligible for vaccination from COVID-19.)