The Milton School District on Tuesday clarified its decision to switch to virtual learning Wednesday and Thursday, saying the district could have a staffing problem if employees get sick from their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
District spokeswoman Kari Klebba said in an email that the decision to pivot to virtual learning for two days was made to prevent a staffing issue related to side effects from the second dose, which have been documented in some patients.
Students will learn virtually Wednesday as staff members receive the vaccination and Thursday as they recover from it. Students will return to classrooms Friday.
While parents might have to find child care for an additional day, officials thought the move was necessary to keep staff safe and education continuous, Klebba said.
“We also prioritize our responsibility to provide a high-quality education for those students,” she said. “If even 5% of our teaching staff was unwell and unable to perform their jobs, we don’t have the staff or the available substitutes to cover those vacancies.
“Classrooms would have to combine, we couldn’t maintain the recommended 6 feet of physical distancing between individuals and we would not be able to provide the best possible learning experience for our students.”
District officials reviewed data on the vaccine, which showed that 8% to 15% of those who get a second dose experience side effects serious enough to prevent them from working, Klebba said.
The district consulted with other school districts, educational institutions, area businesses, individuals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jessica Turner, a Rock County Public Health Department spokeswoman, said the district’s decision was not based on a recommendation from the health department. However, she acknowledged that side effects are more common after the second dose of vaccine.
“This is due to the body’s natural immune response. The second dose could potentially produce a stronger immune response than the first dose because the body has already started creating antibodies,” Turner said, adding that side effects should disappear in a few days.
Possible side effects after the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine include a sore arm, swelling at the injection site, fever, chills, fatigue and headache.
Turner said remedies include exercising the arm that received the shot, placing a wet washcloth over the injection site, staying hydrated and dressing lightly.
All staff members who received their first doses at a January walk-in clinic at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center will receive their second doses Wednesday.
“We, as a district and as a community, share the same goal of prioritizing the health and safety of our students and staff alongside providing a high-quality education to our students,” Klebba wrote.
“We are fortunate that this opportunity was made available for our staff as it is an added layer of protection (as pointed out by the CDC) that can help us keep our schools open with students in the classrooms as this pandemic continues.“