Nurses at Spokane Public Schools receive COVID-19 vaccine

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Public Schools is doing everything in its power to protect nurses as the district prepares to bring more students back to the classroom.

Thirty-six school nurses received the Moderna vaccine on Friday. It marks one of many steps taken to keep staff safe and COVID-19 out of schools, and comes just weeks before third graders are set to return to the classroom.

READ: Spokane Public Schools details plans to bring back students, with 3rd graders returning Jan. 20

Since schools reopened back in October, SPS has seen a total of 152 people testing positive within the district. Of those cases, only seven have been linked to transmission within a school.

The nurses are actually the first group in the district to get the vaccine.

It brought hope to them Friday, knowing they’ll feel a little more safe going into schools and helping students.

It was a day registered nurse Grace Olson was excited for.

“I’m so thrilled, I’m so thankful, I was so ready. I’m not a huge fan of shots, but this one, I was like sign me up. I am here for it. I couldn’t be happier really,” she told 4 News Now.

It’s one more step toward normalcy for her. The one thing she misses in school is being able to have more personal interactions with her students.

“I’m most excited for it because I miss hugging my kids at school. I miss just the normal life that everyone was used to living before all of this happened,” she said.

Becky Doughty, the director of health services for the district, administered the vaccine to the 36 nurses Friday.

“My staff is on the front lines, out in the school buildings every single day working with kids and staff in the health room, really have had to deal with exposure since this started,” she said. “So, now I’m going to be able to know they are safe as we can possibly keep them.”

Nurses have taken on a bigger role since the pandemic started.

Not only do they do their usual work, making sure kids stay healthy and educating them on that, they’ve been helping with contact tracing, too.

Not only that, they’ve been there for students and parents through the pandemic.

“Just be able to help families through this, because it’s unknown for everyone and it’s a difficult time,” said nurse Jennifer Gonzales.

While the nurses normally care for others, they were able to take a few minutes and care for themselves by getting the vaccine.

“I’m looking forward to it being over, and I’m looking forward to hugging my kids again,” Olson said.

The next step is for teachers in the district to get the vaccine. There is no date yet on when that’ll happen, however the Washington Department of Health laid out new plans saying K-12 teachers could start getting the vaccine in February.

Doughty says the district will have multiple vaccination clinics once teachers can get the vaccine.

Most nurses in the school district are funded by a levy. The district is pursuing a replacement levy this February election.

The district says the levy helps pay for 36 nurse positions. Doughty says the state only finances five.

Even with a total of the 41 nurses they have now, there isn’t one in each building. To learn more about the levy, click here.

RELATED: Spokane Schools levy sees a large increase over previous one