How are school districts in McHenry County doing when it comes to the vaccine mandate?

Teachers and other school staff have until Sept. 19 to obtain a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo regular testing

With one week left before Illinois teachers and other school staff must have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo regular testing, McHenry County schools still are collecting vaccine cards and preparing to roll out testing.

Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47, for example, saw vaccination rates jump significantly since Gov. JB Pritzker announced the mandate early last month.

The increase likely is because staff members were already vaccinated but hadn’t yet uploaded their cards before now, district spokeswoman Denise Barr said.

At the beginning of the school year, District 47 reported on its COVID-19 dashboard that its schools had anywhere from 20% to 43% of their staff vaccinated.

As of Friday, when the district’s COVID-19 online dashboard of COVID-19 data was last updated, the school with the highest vaccination rate was Lundahl Middle School at 83%. Only two, Canterbury Elementary School and South Elementary School, have a vaccination rate under 70% – both are close, although, at 69%.

Vaccination cards were requested by the district’s human resources department at the end of last year, although submitting them was optional at the time, Barr said.

“Since the beginning of this year, we’ve made additional requests for vaccination cards from employees and have seen a significant increase over the past several weeks,” Barr said.

Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155 staff also were asked to voluntarily submit their vaccination card, in an effort to expedite contact tracing, before the start of the school year, spokesperson Shannon Podzimek said.

As of Sept. 7, 85.8% of District 155 staff were fully vaccinated, Podzimek said in an email. About 91.8% of its certified staff, meaning anyone with a teaching certification, is fully vaccinated while about 78.06% of its non-certified is.

Like District 155, the teaching staff at Woodstock School District 200 also is more vaccinated than its other workers, spokesman Kevin Lyons said. About 86% of District 200 teaching staffers are vaccinated, whereas the rate is 80% for all its employees.

The district has about 1,000 employees, he said.

Marengo Union Elementary School District 165 Superintendent Lea Damisch said she had not planned to ask her staff members about their vaccination status when the school year started, unless they were a close contact to a positive case.

But now she said she now keeps track of staff vaccinations because of the state mandate.

About 75% of her staff was vaccinated prior to Pritzker’s mandate, she said, and less than 1% of her staff has chosen to get vaccinated since the mandate was put in place, instead choosing to participate in the weekly testing.

About 25% of the District 165′s staff will be participating in weekly testing and almost all have direct interaction with students, Damisch said.

“To be fair, we are following all the mitigation strategies to keep children safe,” she said.

In Huntley School District 158, about 85% of the staff was vaccinated as of Friday, spokeswoman Alex LeMoine said. The district does not expect to lose staff members because of the vaccine mandate.

“We are monitoring the number of staff who have provided their proof of vaccination each day and have not experienced an increase in departures from staff as a result of this state mandate,” LeMoine said.

The same is true in McHenry Elementary School District 15, Superintendent Josh Reitz said.

“At this time, we have not had any staff leave their positions nor indicate their intention to leave their position due to the requirements of the executive order,” Reitz said.

McHenry High School District 156 has more than 85% of its staff vaccinated as of Monday, Superintendent Ryan McTague said in a statement, and the district still is working to compile its full vaccination status. McTague on Friday reported the vaccination rate was more than 80% for full-time employees.

“For those who are not fully vaccinated, we will work with them to ensure they comply with the testing requirement either in school or with community partners,” McTague said.

Both District 200 and District 15 are working with Curative, a company founded last year that has helped to scale up the availability of COVID-19 testing, to provide employees options to test at school buildings within each of the respective districts.

District 47 plans to provide them with a link to testing sites in McHenry County, which Barr said will allow them to get tested when and where it is convenient for them.

“Ultimately, our goal is to offer Shield testing to staff as we do students as soon as Shield has the capability to do this,” Barr said.

District 155 also is working to establish on-site testing for employees but in the meantime, has provided testing locations with staff who have chosen that route, Podzimek said.

“The district will follow the governor’s mandate and employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to test,” Podzimek said.

The district also arranged for Jewel-Osco in Crystal Lake to reserve vaccination appointments for District 155 personnel on Sept. 3, she said.

Harvard School District 50 spokeswoman McKenzie Laurent did not say how many teachers are vaccinated, but said employees are cooperating with the policy to get vaccinated or tested.

“We have asked staff to voluntarily submit their vaccination cards to private and confidential record keeping so that we know who needs to test weekly and who doesn’t. We have had a great response to the process as our teachers really want to do everything they can to help their kids learn in person this year,” Laurent said.

The superintendents of Johnsburg School District 12, Nippersink Elementary School District 2 and Richmond-Burton High School District 157 said they still are gathering the vaccination statuses from their employees and will have more statistics to share ahead of the Sept. 19 deadline to get shots or face testing.

Pritzker extended the deadline by two weeks for school workers to take shots or get tested weekly, to Sept. 19 after originally setting the date at Sept. 5.

“The additional time has been a tremendous help,” District 12 Superintendent Dan Johnson said.

Cassie Buchman

Cassie Buchman

I cover Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Cary, Fox River Grove, Prairie Grove and Oakwood Hills for the Northwest Herald.

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.