As Sonoma County has reached its deadline for school employees, volunteers and contractors to show proof of vaccination, data from Sonoma County’s largest school districts suggests the vast majority of workers have chosen to vaccinate rather than test weekly for the year.
“I’m not aware that there is a huge level of anxiety or emotion around (the deadline),” said Anna Trunnell, superintendent of schools for the city of Santa Rosa. “I think people are moving forward with business as usual. They have either given us their status or are awaiting instructions on testing.”
As of Wednesday, 82.3% of school staff in the city of Santa Rosa – including teachers, administrators, classified staff and substitute teachers – had submitted proof that they were fully immunized. Among the 1,815 people counted, 24 were partially vaccinated, 41 were not vaccinated and 31 had refused to declare their status.
However, another 225 staff – 12.4% – simply did not respond.
Steve Mizera, executive director of special education, said he expects more people to respond to the district’s request for information once they start receiving reminders from human resources to do so. test next week.
“We really don’t think these numbers (represent) that many unvaccinated or unwilling to say so,” Mizera said.
With the deadline starting on Friday, schools in Sonoma County will now pass at a rate of regular testing for staff, volunteers and contractors who have not proven they are fully immunized.
Administrators in several districts said they were focusing on building up their testing resources and offerings in the weeks leading up to the deadline, both to habituate staff and to ensure required tests are accessible.
“We wanted it to be convenient for staff and available to all schools in the district,” said Mayra Perez, superintendent of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District.
Julian Rivera, pandemic response coordinator for the Windsor Unified School District, said “a good number” of district staff have already made testing part of their weekly schedule.
“I’m starting my week with a COVID test so I’m sure I don’t have COVID,” he said. “Others, they do it on Fridays before they go for the weekend.”
Windsor has one of the strongest testing programs among school districts in Sonoma County – beyond students, staff, and their families, school-based testing sites are also available for school staff. the city of Windsor, said Rivera.
The district was able to deliver up to 600 tests per week largely thanks to its partnership with the Pandemic Solutions Group, created in May 2020 by the Rockefeller Foundation.
District leaders wanted to serve a larger sample of the community in part because a clinic that was performing testing in Windsor closed in August, Rivera said.
“As we move forward and see the need for this school year, (Superintendent Jeremy Decker) has not only hired more people, but he is providing resources so that we can get the staff we need,” Rivera said.
The result, he added, is that “schools and school administrators can focus on their job of teaching and supporting the learning and achievement of our students.”
As of Thursday, the percentage of employees, volunteers and contractors vaccinated in Windsor was 64%. It also had a large proportion of people who had not yet certified their status: nearly 35%, according to a spokesperson for the borough.
“We think we’re going to end up with our vaccine count around 75% to 80%, when all is said and done,” Heather Bailey, communications coordinator, said in a text message.
The ability of school districts to provide easily accessible tests depends in large part on the resources and reach of the provider they partner with. Even before the new weekly testing requirements took effect, demand was high, most district leaders said.
“We get so many requests,” said Tracy Smith, superintendent of the Rincon Valley Union school district. “Preschoolers, grandparents, people who really have difficulty accessing tests. “
Her district, in which 95% of staff are vaccinated, is exploring a partnership with a company called Grapefruit, she said, in the hopes of being able to offer pop-up testing sites, including on weekends.
Companies on the list of state-registered COVID test providers will automatically report COVID test results they process to Sonoma County Public Health, said Steve Herrington, superintendent of Sonoma County schools.
“The employee has a responsibility to provide their employer with their weekly results,” Herrington said.