MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin schools are gearing up to offer the SARS CoV-2 vaccine to kids ages 5 through 11. 

Lots of parents and school staff have been waiting for this moment: When elementary-age children have the opportunity to get the vaccine.

“You would think that having a vaccination event was like, might be better than their firstborn child,” laughed Leia Esser.

She’s the Madison Metropolitan School District’s interim executive director of student and staff supports.

“People are so so happy to be able to get kids vaccinated and keep them in school," she said.

Esser said the district’s first clinic will be at Aldo Leopold Elementary on Nov. 20. Esser said more will happen after Thanksgiving break.

“We are going to be surveying our families very soon to find out their intentions around vaccination, and whether or not they would like to get their child vaccinated before school, after school, or on the weekend,” she said. 

SSM Health will be running the first vaccine clinic for MMSD, and for the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. SSM already has some of those kids’ doses in hand.

For the Middleton-Cross Plains district, the first vaccine clinic is Nov. 11.

“All of our clinic spots filled up really quickly,” said Danielle Krbecek, the district’s coordinator of health services. “We’re serving about 1,400 students, and 200 staff members for booster vaccines.”

Of course there are the health implications, vaccination will offer children some protection. But the impact on academics will be huge.

While it all depends on the district, unvaccinated students have to stay home when they’ve been exposed to COVID-19. 

“Families really wanted to get their kid in as quickly as possible, obviously there’s great benefit to them staying in school longer in case they become a close contact,” Krbecek said. 

“In elementary school, any student who's a close contact has to quarantine between seven and 10 days, which means that seven to 10 days of in person instruction they're missing,” Esser said. “When vaccinated, they don't need to quarantine. They simply need to monitor for symptoms and ensure that they are healthy. So that means that every time we're sending a student home, now we don't have to in the future.”

Esser said the Madison school district is still working to get more kids above 12 vaccinated, too. There are income and racial disparities in terms of which students have gotten the shot. They’re currently collecting data and developing a plan to connect with those families.