Teachers who for months have been dealing with the challenges of distance learning — or extreme social distancing efforts in classrooms — seem to be ready for a change.
Many are counting on newly available vaccines to help pave the way.
"I've been waiting for this day," said Laurie Dunham, a second-grade teacher at Rosedale North Elementary School in northwest Bakersfield.
Dunham was one of 250 teachers, administrators and other employees in the Rosedale Union School District to receive COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday at a clinic set up through a partnership between the 650-employee school district and Priority Urgent Care.
"As you know, this is a cause that is especially close to our hearts, being a district that offers in-person instruction," Merril Clanton, an executive assistant with the district, said in an email.
By 3:15 p.m., scores of Rosedale employees were moving from the check-in tables in front of the Rosedale Middle School Gymnasium to three vaccination stations just inside the doors — then to an area where they were asked to wait 15 minutes to make sure they were not experiencing any rare side effects.
"It's kind of amazing that my district set this up," said Effie McQueen, a sixth-grade teacher at Centennial Elementary.
"It's definitely efficient," McQueen said. "My sister works in the medical field and she had to wait 45 minutes to get her shot."
Indeed, employees checked in, received the vaccine, hung out in the waiting area ... and were out the door.
Crysta Silver Hill, chief administrator of student support, gave credit to Clanton and other district staff who worked for days to organize the effort — and to Dr. Kent Kwan and others at Priority Urgent Care who advised and executed.
"Every employee is eligible. It's voluntary," Silver Hill said. "Anyone interested was able to get an appointment today."
Rather than have hundreds of employees go to a medical facility or clinic, it was notable that Rosedale and Priority did the opposite by having the medical team come to the district. District Superintendent Sue Lemon said it worked out well.
In fact, Fruitvale School District employees piggy-backed on the effort by coming into the Rosedale gym for their own vaccine clinic later Tuesday afternoon.
"This is a global problem, not just a Rosedale problem," Lemon said of the cooperation. "We need to work together."
Close to half of Rosedale's employees would have received their first vaccination by the end of Tuesday's clinic. It's a huge step forward, but Lemon and others acknowledged that it means large numbers of teachers and employees remain unvaccinated.
"I was ready for it. I'm anxious for things to open up," said Tamara White, a school secretary at Patriot Elementary.
She said she and her husband took the pandemic seriously, made sacrifices. Now she hopes mass vaccinations can bring back some level of normalcy.
"We isolated ourselves from our family to protect our family," she said.
But so far, 50 percent of district employees are waiting — or have decided they will not receive the vaccine.
Dunham said she's shocked when she hears colleagues say they don't plan on getting vaccinated.
"I'm a believer in science. And data," she said. "People say they don't know what's in it. That's wrong. Google it. It's all there.
"Unfortunately, I think it's been politicized," she said.
On Tuesday, she and hundreds of her colleagues went home better protected, which means their students, their families and their community will be better protected.
And for many at Tuesday's clinic, that's worth celebrating.