After releasing districtwide information earlier in the week, Rochester Public Schools on Thursday released information about how many staff and students in each of its building have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
At Tuesday's School Board meeting, Interim Superintendent Kent Pekel said that having such specific information is important since it helps provide a better foundation for making mitigation plans.
“Being vaccinated is a big decision a student, parent or individual must make. But it is a shared responsibility between the individuals and schools because we know the best path out of this pandemic is vaccination,” Pekel said in a news release, reiterating a similar statement he made at Tuesday's meeting.
Overall, 88% of staff have been fully vaccinated and 53% of eligible students have been fully vaccinated.
In general, there's a higher student vaccination rate among the older students. At each of the three public high schools, the percentage of students who are fully vaccinated is between 70% and 74%.
At the middle schools, the percentage is lower among the eligible students. Willow Creek Middle School has the lowest rate among the three middle schools, where only 54.88% of eligible students have been fully vaccinated.
The two schools with the highest student vaccination rates are Lincoln K-8 at 81.55% and Friedell Middle School at 79.67%. Both those schools are districtwide options, meaning families from throughout the district can apply to go there rather than just students in the immediate surrounding neighborhoods.
The school with the lowest student vaccination rate is the Alternative Learning Center, which provides services such as credit recovery. It has a rate of 32.61%.
Pekel said Rochester Public Schools is among the first districts in Minnesota to release such detailed information about the vaccination status.
"I believe we're the first school district in the state that's even done this," Pekel said at Tuesday's meeting. "We're certainly the first that's released it."
The district also released more specific information for staff vaccination rates. The building with the highest staff vaccination rate is Churchill Elementary, in which more than 95% of the staff is vaccinated.
All the other elementary schools have staff vaccination rates between 85% and 95%, with the exception of Hoover Elementary, which falls in the range from 80% to 85%.
Between 90% and 95% of the staff at Mayo and Century high schools have been vaccinated. John Marshall has slightly less, falling in the category between 85% and 90%.
Both Willow Creek and Kellogg middle schools are in the category where 80% to 85% of the staff are fully vaccinated. John Adams Middle School has a slightly higher staff vaccination rate, falling in the 85% to 90% range.
The Edison Administration Building has a staff vaccination rate lower than many of the schools, falling in the 80% to 85% range.
The district received the vaccination data through the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC). According to a news release, "at no time has the district had access to any identifiable staff vaccination records. The file received from MIIC is anonymous, deidentified data."
During Tuesday's board meeting, Pekel explained that when dealing with large data files, you need to have a match so that the individuals you're seeking information about verifiably correspond to the information in the database.
Among students overall, there was a 95% match rate between the records the district submitted and the records in the database. The staff match rate was considerably lower at 63%. Pekel said the reason for the lower match rate could be the result of staff members getting vaccines out of state.
Overall, 88% of staff have been fully vaccinated. Due to the match rate, though, that means that only 88% of the 63% match rate are verifiably known to be vaccinated.
"I think 63% is sufficiently high, and the numbers track broadly enough with our county information that I was confident enough to release it," Pekel said at Tuesday's meeting. "I think it's going to be representative broadly of what we see as we potentially can add additional data to that."