GLSD, One of the First Staffs Given the Opportunity to get Vaccinated


McKenna Skatell, Staff Writer

After a year filled with hardships, isolation, and unknowns, our nation can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. On December 14, 2020 Pfizer started to distribute their vaccine and not long after came Moderna. This two shot vaccine has shown a 95% efficacy level, giving the world a glimmer of hope. 

The CDC’s plan of attack is to distribute the vaccine in phases, as followed: 1a, 1b, and 1c. First and foremost, are health care personnel, followed by essential, frontline workers, people over the age of 75, and those with underlying health conditions. Lastly, includes the rest of the population. But, many people have been receiving the vaccine as the opportunity comes available. Some can’t wait to get their shot, while others feel uncertain.

Fortunately, for the staff at GLSD they were able to receive the first dose of the vaccine on January 23, 2021 or January 30th thanks to Sue Schropp and Lori Stripay.

Coincidentally, these two are neighbors. Schropp, the owner of the Latrobe Medicine Shoppe reached out to Stripay, who happens to be the district’s PSEA (teacher’s union) representative to see if GLSD would be interested in having the Medicine Shoppe provide vaccines for the staff. From there, Stripay contacted the superintendents. 

Mr. Michael Porembka, the assistant superintendent, received a call from Stripay on January 13th asking if the district would be interested in getting the staff vaccinated. Dr. Georgia Teppert, the superintendent, was not available at the time, but Mr. Porembka knew she would “for sure want to take advantage of this opportunity”, therefore he quickly said yes. “I felt that morally and ethically that was the right thing to do. We initially didn’t expect our school district to get vaccinated until March or April, so this was definitely an opportunity we could not pass up,” he explained. 

There is a sense of urgency to distribute doses to as many people as quickly as they can be produced. We need to get herd immunity in order to get back to some type of normality and this vaccine is the key. Finally having a solution to this never ending nightmare has offered people some relief. Getting the vaccine will decrease the spread of the virus as well lessening symptoms if you should contract Covid. However, even after receiving the vaccine people still need to continue to take precautions of mask wearing and social distancing.  

Schropp reached out to GLSD as a community service. Mr. Porembka said, “She understood the need for getting these vaccines out and how important it was for students to get back in the building.” The Latrobe Medicine Shoppe was far enough along with the healthcare workers (1a) they could start to offer vaccinations to 1b, which is the category the staff would fall under. 

Dr. Teppert sent out an email informing the entire GLSD staff of this news. Mrs. Butler, a business teacher at the senior high, took the opportunity to receive the vaccine.  She said, “After receiving that initial email, a google form was sent out to us to see who would be interested. After finding out 400 doses were available, 200 one weekend and 200 the next, a second google form was sent out asking for our age and if we wanted to defer to the later date.”  

While many teachers couldn’t wait to get vaccinated some were unsure. Mrs. Butler explained, “I was undecided to put it clearly. I normally don’t get the flu shot as I feel that our immune systems can take care of themselves. Before finally making my decision to get the shot, I talked to my PCP, my niece who is a PA, a close family friend, and some teachers to get their opinions and advice. In the end, the benefits outweighed the risks. But, I will say I feel a little guilty knowing that my parents, who are older, have not been able to receive their vaccine.”

The staff members received the Moderna, which is an mRNA vaccine as Pfizer has to be kept in a freezer at -76 to -112 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Five vaccinators from the Medicine Shoppe set up shop in the high school auditorium to administer the shots. Mr. Porembka set up the clinics in a way that would be most efficient and organized. “I scheduled groups of no more than 15 every 15 minutes to ensure there would not be any large crowds. People entered the lobby to check in and then headed to the auditorium. They walked up the right side of the stage, got their shot and then exited on the left. It was a quick process lasting about 25 minutes–15 of which were spent sitting in the auditorium for observational study after receiving the vaccine,” explained Mr. Porembka.   

“Overall, both Clinics ran smoothly and I am happy to say that 433 staff members were vaccinated over the two weekends.This included not just teachers, but secretaries, bus drivers, food service, custodians, anyone that is a part of our school district in some way,” said Mr.Porembka.

Although many people don’t feel well after the second dose, it is worth it in the end knowing you will be safe. For this reason, the district has designated  February 22nd and March 1st as online learning days for students to insure the health and safety of our staff.

Over 80% of the staff took advantage of this opportunity. Mr Porembka knows that more people would like to get it who could not, and hopes to have another clinic in the near future. He said, “We just wanted our staff to feel comfortable and more protected. I think this vaccine gives them peace of mind.” 

More and more people are receiving the vaccine each day resulting in a decrease in Covid cases as well as hospitalizations across the United States. As a whole, the district feels more confident about bringing students back full time again as of Monday, February 8, 2021.

Overall, Mr. Porembka and the rest of the staff was overjoyed and extremely thankful to have had this opportunity available to them. He gives a big thanks to Dr. Teppert, Lori Stripay, and Sue Schropp for making this all happen successfully. Each day we are getting closer and closer to winning this fight against Covid-19.