Seven Nevis staff members headed to Thief River Falls on Saturday to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine.

“The Minnesota Department of Education started a pilot program to begin vaccinating staff members this week,” Superintendent Gregg Parks said. “The initial pilot project is designed to test the ability for schools to implement a vaccination program simultaneously with the Department of Health. During this pilot, we were given the opportunity for seven of our staff members to get vaccinated. I realize this is only about 4 percent of our total employee population, but it is a starting point. The school district developed a prioritized list based upon factors such as age, likelihood of contact with students, personal health and health of family members.”

Parks said, so far, the only symptom reported by staff who were vaccinated Saturday is a sore arm.

The district has also been working with Hubbard County Public Health Director Marlee Morrison.

“In conjunction with her, we have been able to get five of our healthcare and mental healthcare staff members the first shot,” Parks said.

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Morrison also asked the district to provide a prioritized list of staff who can be called, if slots were to become available while the county is giving shots.

“I am thankful we are finally in a position to get our staff and students protected,” Parks said. “Although the process has started out painfully slow, I feel it has the ability to provide huge dividends for our school and community. Stability in our staff and student populations will go a long way toward keeping our students in school.

The state has provided the district with opportunities to test staff once every two weeks.

“There has not been mention yet of a program to test students,” he said.

With most students now back in school, the Minnesota Department of Health has discussed

developing a plan for testing for all students in classrooms, with the highest priority given to testing student athletes.