The start of vaccinations for city teachers begins a process that many hope will make it less worrisome to work inside schools during the pandemic.
"I feel really lucky that I got the first dose of the vaccination,” said Matt Brownstein, assistant principal at P.S. 330 in Queens.
Brownstein says he was able to easily sign up on a city Health Department website over the weekend. Holly Mooney, an elementary school speech therapist, also registered. She found the link on social media, where teachers began sharing it on Saturday.
"Mine was on Facebook groups. They were like, ‘There are spots available.’ That's how I got this one today,” Mooney said.
She was plenty eager to get jabbed.
"I work with kids who spit on me. It's a good thing,” she said.
But the rollout had its bumps.
Although teachers could begin making appointments on Saturday, neither the teachers union nor the city Education Department officially notified eligible staff until Sunday.
The DOE said teachers working in classrooms should receive the vaccine before those working remotely. But there is no mechanism to ensure that happens.
The DOE's email came too late for teacher Lisa Pines. She worked in person until December, when she went remote due to her partner's age and health conditions. She had already signed up for a shot.
"We’re used to it by now. I mean last time school closed, we found out by tweet. So I’m keeping the appointment. I hope that my younger colleagues don’t think I’m jumping the gun, and I did teach in person for a long time until the rate got so high I applied for an accommodation, which I was lucky to get. I think — I feel like I would be crushed to cancel it, to be honest,” Pine said.
That's in part because, for so many educators, the vaccine represents hope that things might get back to something closer to normal.
"It's something that is a really important first step to helping set ourselves up for the fall, especially for something that looks a little more familiar to us, as far as what a school day is,” Brownstein said.
Teachers also can register for the vaccine through a program launched Sunday by their union. It will link them with healthcare providers.
The union said priority would be given to members working in classrooms. But like the city's effort, there is nothing to prevent a teacher working remotely from getting the vaccine now.