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RISD begins vaccinating essential staff

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The Roswell Independent School District began giving the COVID-19 vaccine to essential employees on Tuesday — cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians and special education staff who work directly with students.

“These are the people directly involved, face-to-face (with students) and they’re in large groups,” Superintendent Mike Gottlieb told the RISD Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday night.

“Can you imagine if we had to close down both Goddard and Roswell high cafeterias at the same time with 70,000 meals going out? We couldn’t do it. When you look at those situations we’ve got to get those done first,” he said.

About 145 employees got the vaccine on Tuesday with another 100 scheduled on Wednesday, Gottlieb said.

“We’re right about 87%” of staff volunteering for the vaccine, Gottlieb said. “I hope this continues with the rest of the staff.”

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“This is the first exciting news in my belief for the school district and our kids. I want to thank the staff for stepping up and doing this,” he said.

Staff members who receive a vaccine this week will need a second shot around the beginning of February.

The next round of employees eligible for the vaccine will be staff who have medical issues that put them at high risk for COVID-19, the remaining special education staff, and any essential employees who wanted to get the vaccine in the first round but could not due to limited supply, Gottlieb said.

There are more than 50 essential employees who were not able to get the vaccine at this time, he said.

“We’ll be moving to those rapidly as they get the vaccine to us,” he said.

Even as more district employees receive the vaccine, RISD will still be required to test 10% of its staff for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. The New Mexico Public Education Department began requiring the saliva-based surveillance testing as of Jan. 4 for all schools that have any students on campus.

RISD is still in remote learning but some students are allowed in the buildings for instruction, such as those with individual education plans.

“That is mandated,” Gottlieb said of the surveillance testing. “I was not happy about that but we’re moving forward on that.”

Also in Tuesday night’s meeting:

• The board met in executive session for nearly an hour to discuss limited personnel matters including a request for appeal of administrator’s grievance. Afterward, in open session, the board voted 4-1 with no discussion or elaboration to affirm the superintendent’s decision regarding the administrator’s grievance. Board members Hope Morales, Hilda Sanchez, Mona Kirk and Milburn Dolan voted in favor. James Edwards voted against the motion. The board also reviewed applicants for superintendent in the executive session.

• The board unanimously approved several policies regarding tobacco use and student wellness, the annual preventative maintenance plan and the safety plan.

• The board unanimously approved the sale of the remaining $7 million in general obligation bonds from the $14 million that was approved by voters in 2019. The funds will be used for future construction projects including Mesa Middle School. Bids for that project are expected to be advertised by March.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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