Baker: Teacher vaccinations by mid-March, if supply is available

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — Teachers have been pushing hard to be prioritized through the state’s vaccine rollout, and Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker said it may happen in mid-March if the vaccine supply is sufficient. Baker spoke at Rupert A. Nock Middle School, where ‘pooled testing’ began Friday morning.

“We think if the vast majority of kids in a school do the pool testing that will really be effective to give another layer protection for a school’s students and staff,” said Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, of the state-funded program.

About one-third of school districts in the state are participating in the program, which is funded through April 18, according to DESE.

Director of Nursing and Health Services for Newburyport Public Schools Cathy Riccio, who was recently named Massachusetts Nurse Administrator of the Year, received special recognition from Gov. Baker for her leadership during the pandemic.

“It was a privilege and an honor to be honored by him,” Riccio told Boston 25 News.

Her job has changed significantly during the pandemic. She and her fellow nurses are preparing a pooled testing system and starting to phase-in groups of students and staff as part of the mitigation effort.

First up is student-athletes, and then more students in the weeks that follow.

Riccio said she was pleased to hear the governor talk about teachers being vaccinated in mid-March.

“We need to ensure our staff has confidence that they can be safe in schools,” Riccio added.

Aubrey Rice is a special education teacher at Rupert A. Nock Middle School, who says she is excited about the idea of vaccinations just weeks away.

“I’m optimistic we will get vaccinated in mid-March, so it does make me feel very positive,” Rice said.

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