Sag Harbor Schools To Offer Vaccine Clinic For Elementary Students On Sunday

Sag Harbor Elementary School, in partnership with Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, will host a free vaccine clinic on Sunday, November 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for Sag Harbor Elementary School students who are now eligible to receive the Pfizer-Biotech Covid-19 vaccine. The second shots will be administered at the school three weeks later, on December 12.

Sag Harbor parents seeking COVID-19 vaccines for their children will soon be able to book appointments just minutes from home.

At the Sag Harbor School Board of Education meeting on Monday night, Superintendent of Schools Jeff Nichols announced that the district, in partnership with Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, will host a free vaccine clinic for children ages 5 to 11 at the Sag Harbor Elementary School on Sunday, November 21.

It will be open to Sag Harbor Elementary School students only and will run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The second shots will be given at the school on Sunday, December 12. Staff from the hospital and the school will be on hand both days to assist students and families.

Nichols said the district planned to email sign-up sheets to elementary school parents on November 16.

Sag Harbor school officials have been working on the logistics of hosting the vaccine clinic in response to requests made of school districts nationwide by the federal government — specifically the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Nichols outlined those requests and showed a copy of the correspondence from the government at Monday night’s virtual meeting. The letter quoted U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra as saying that “vaccination is the best tool we have to keep our students safe from COVID-19, maintain in-person learning, and prevent the closure of schools and cancellation of valued extracurricular activities.”

In addition to encouraging schools to facilitate and host vaccine clinics, the Department of Education has also implored school districts to “hold conversations” with the school community on the COVID-19 vaccine, and to distribute information about the vaccine to families.

To comply with those other charges, Nichols said the district will send out a five-page fact sheet on Pfizer’s two-shot MRNA vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, answering common questions such as who is eligible to receive the vaccine, where they can get it, facts on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, answers to questions about concerns of side effects like myocarditis — a swelling of the heart muscle that can occur in rare cases after vaccination, but is a higher risk side effect for children who actually contract COVID-19 — and other issues.

Nichols added that providing information at the board meeting about the upcoming vaccine clinic at the school was part of the effort to have community conversations around the vaccine, but said the district was also planning to continue that effort in other ways.

The board was supportive of the district’s plan. Jordana Sobey was one of several board members who praised Nichols and other school officials and medical professionals for their efforts in making the vaccine and vaccine information more accessible. She said that it has been challenging for parents of young children to book vaccine appointments, pointing out that many of them have been making long drives to Manorville, Riverhead and Selden to get their children shots.

Board member Chris Tice said she was happy to hear that the district would be sending out a fact sheet, and encouraged school officials to provide as much information as possible, suggesting designating space on the school website to list information and provide links to “credible third-party information.”

“I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” she said, “and I’m not sure to what extent we’re allowed to share information, but whatever we can, I’d implore us to share.”

Board President Brian DeSesa agreed with Tice. “The more information we have, the better it is for kids and families,” he said.

Springs School also announced on Tuesday that it plans a vaccination clinic for children ages 5 to 11 from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, November 20. Children do not have to be Springs School students to get the vaccine. Appointments are available online through the Stony Brook Medicine website.

There was some other discussion and questions surrounding COVID and vaccination. In what was the only piece of public input on the evening, a community member asked a question regarding masks in the chat section online, wondering if, in light of the vaccine being made available to younger children, there would be any discussion about removing mask mandates. Nichols gave what amounted to a firm “no” in response to that query.

“There’s been discussion, but right now we will not be relaxing that requirement,” he said. He pointed to an uptick in cases over the last two weeks that has resulted in a test positive rate just north of 5 percent in Suffolk County, and said that not only does that trend indicate masking should remain in place but that the district has always and will continue to follow guidance from both the Suffolk County Department of Health and the CDC, which are both continuing to recommend masking and social distancing. He pointed out that going against that guidance would greatly impact quarantine and the ability to keep kids in school.

Tice asked about the possibility of vaccine requirements for students participating in interscholastic sports or other extracurricular activities. She said that several large school districts in the state, including in Albany, have started to require vaccines for those students, and expressed concern that a COVID uptick arriving at the same time as close contact indoor sports season — basketball is the poster child here — could lead to an outbreak. Nichols said that the district, in consulting with its legal counsel, feels comfortable enacting a similar policy that it currently requires for staff, which is requiring either proof of vaccination or weekly proof of a negative test, but said that, right now, the district did not plan on mandating vaccines.

Masonry Project Laid Out

During the latter half of the meeting, School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi presided over a presentation, along with district architect Saverio Belfiore, on a proposed masonry project that would be carried out over the summer to make much needed updates and repairs to all three buildings in the district.

The project would be funded by money from the district’s repair reserve fund, which currently has a $1.76 million balance. Belfiore gave a detailed presentation on the work that needs to be done for each building, provided detailed cost estimates and photos of cracks and deterioration present on various areas of the building facades at the learning center, the elementary school, and the middle-high school.

The list of necessary upgrades and repairs were compiled as part of a state-mandated visual building inspection performed in 2020. The total cost for the project will come in at just under $1 million.

Masonry repairs are just part of the recommended upgrades to the facilities, and those upgrades will occur over time and with various different avenues of funding.

Recommended upgrades to new ventilation systems, for instance, will likely be covered by federal funds paid out to the district as part of the American Rescue Plan. Other necessary upgrades, like replacing the roof in the Middle School wing, will be discussed during this school year’s budget season.