The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education published school staff vaccination rates from every public school across Maine, but Lincoln County superintendents suggest the numbers are not yet accurate.
According to Maine DHHS, the average school staff vaccination rate in Lincoln County is 79%. The published rates of vaccinated staff members at Lincoln County schools are as follows:
Boothbay Region Elementary School: 71.1%, Boothbay Region High School: 100%, Bristol Consolidated School: 75.6%, Dresden Elementary School: 82.6%, Edgecomb Eddy School: 88%, Great Salt Bay Community School: 91.8%, Jefferson Village School: 69.2%, Lincoln Academy: 94.2%, Medomak Middle School: 36.7%, Medomak Valley High School: 47.4%, Miller School: 51.4%, Nobleboro Central School: 83.8%, Somerville Elementary School: N/A, South Bristol Elementary School: N/A, Southport Central School: 53.8%, Whitefield Elementary School: 73.5%, Wiscasset Elementary School: 80.4%, Wiscasset Middle High School: 80.3%
In many school systems, vaccination rates are significantly lower for operations staff, including bus drivers, central office employees and others who are not assigned to a particular school.
Superintendents agreed that the time during which they were expected to solicit responses from staff members—around the first week of school—and the fact that non-responses from teachers were automatically recorded as not vaccinated skewed results.
Superintendents are also not required to seek documentation of vaccination from staff members.
Over the phone on Sept. 23, AOS 98 Superintendent Robert Kahler said that superintendents were required to submit vaccination data between Aug. 31 and Sept. 10. Since AOS 98’s first day of school was Sept. 7, many staff members were preoccupied with getting ready for the school year.
Kahler sent out a Google survey to teachers, and did not reach out to them if they did not respond because there were more practical things to worry about as the school year began. Kahler said he anticipates next month’s numbers being much more accurate.
In a Sept. 23 email, Steve Nolan, superintendent of MSAD 40, said about half of staff in his district responded to requests for vaccination information.
“I’m doubtful the data reported accurately reflects staff vaccination rates. The sample we collected from staff was voluntary and distributed the same week staff returned from summer vacation. The poor timing of collecting this data is reflected in the participation rate,” Nolan said.
Craig Jurgensen, superintendent of AOS 93, said in an email on Sept. 24 that some staff did not respond to his survey in time for similar reasons to those detailed by other superintendents, but noted that about 95% did respond.
“All of our school protocols note the importance of vaccination in controlling COVID-19 and we have worked with LincolnHealth partners to make vaccinations available and convenient,” Jurgensen said in his email.
Superintendents will report updated vaccination rates by Oct. 10, as required by DHHS.
The state announced on Sept. 17 that all teachers would fall under President Biden’s vaccination mandate for public sector employers.
Kahler, Jurgensen, and Nolan all said they will not be taking any particular actions in response to the mandate until they receive specific instructions on how it will be implemented.