BOONE — Watauga County School employees got their first COVID-19 shot on Feb. 24 in the Watauga Community Recreation Center as the state moves into Phase 3 of administering vaccines.

Approximately 600 WCS employees were scheduled to get their vaccine.

“I can’t tell the sense of relief I feel seeing our teachers and staff members being taken care of by getting a vaccine,” said Scott Elliott, WCS superintendent. “It’s like Christmas today. I can also see it in the eyes of the teachers that they have a new sense of relief and a new sense of optimism that we’re turning a corner.”

With vaccines, Elliott said it makes him feel more confident as the school system moves forward. Elliott was scheduled to receive his first dose that day.

Maggie Tate teaches at Hardin Park in a self-contained classroom. She said she is very excited about getting the vaccine especially since she had COVID-19 in September and doesn’t have to worry as much about getting it again now that she has the vaccine.

“I have kids all year,” Tate said. “(With the vaccine) we can teach safely and do what we need to do at school.”

Rachel Whitmer works for Mountain Alliance that’s based in Watauga High School. She said she is really excited about getting the vaccine.

“Starting that process of getting vaccinated and getting back to normal things in serving students in a more normal way is just exciting,” Whitmer said.

Shelly Klutz, the head nurse for Watauga County Schools, was working at the clinic providing vaccines.

“It’s so important that the school nurses get to be part of administering the vaccines to all our faculty and staff,” Klutz said. “To be able to make sure they are vaccinated and give that extra layer of protection for them so we can bring our kids back to the school system is just very exciting. We’re moving forward and you can’t help but be excited about that.”

Hardin Park teacher Corrie Freeman said in a statement she was feeling hopeful.

“This is an avenue back to normal for my kids, me and our community. I feel like I can take a deep breath,” Freeman said. “I just appreciate all the volunteers, ARHS and AppHealthCare for being here today and helping us do this together. This whole operation is very impressive.”

WCS employees are scheduled to get their second shot on March 26. K-5 grades in Watauga County are scheduled to move to four days a week of in person learning beginning March 8 with pre-K through second grade. Third grade through fifth grade will move to four days a week two weeks later.

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