MEDINA, Ohio — Roughly 3,500 Medina County teachers received their vaccine Thursday as part of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s plan to vaccinate teachers in February to reopen schools on March 1.
Medina joins Summit County as the only Northeast Ohio communities to get vaccines for teachers in the first week of Governor DeWine’s four-week plan.
The Educational Service Center (ESC) of Medina County partnered with Discount Drug Mart to vaccinate every willing teacher in the entire county on Feb. 4. ESC of Medina County Superintendent Robert Hlasko said it was worth the day off to get roughly 80% of the county’s educational staff vaccinated.
“As an educator, it’s always taboo to say well one more day off of school isn’t going to matter, but this year, quite frankly, one day off of school to get this done in one day and get educators back on site, that was a proponent of it,” said Hlasko.
He also pointed out that one large vaccination event prevents many issues making sure vaccines are stored in the proper ways for more than a day.
That plan means teachers like middle school physical education teacher Melanie Condosta getting the vaccine weeks if not months before she would become eligible because of her age while also setting an example to her students.
“Kids have a lot of questions and concerns and it’s a great opportunity for them to see [someone get the vaccine so if they ask me about it, we can talk about it,” said Condosta. “Some probably won’t know about it. Others will probably be like, ‘I saw you on TV. It’s wonderful. It’s a great learning experience for all.”
Students across Medina County are already back in the classroom full-time but also started in-person before the holidays when increasing COVID case numbers forced them to go remote. It’s a reminder that the threat of going remote again is never far away.
“It’s been a rollercoaster emotionally, socially, mentally, physically,” said Condosta.
Medina City Schools Superintendent Aaron Sable says his district brought students back in January partially because the Centers for Disease Control and Ohio Department of Health said COVID spread was relatively low in schools when prop protocols are being followed, even when a COVID-positive student is near other learners.
After a few weeks back, Sable says they haven’t seen much spread in school and that a bigger issue was Ohio’s quarantine rules.
“I can tell you that the biggest challenge that we have had is the quarantining of students and staff and not having appropriate staffing levels to really run a building,” said Sable.
Changing quarantine rules in Ohio helps but now Sable says more vaccines can prevent more teachers from getting sick, ensuring staffing levels stay where they need to be.
“I just am so grateful for today,” said entrepreneurial program teacher Emily Knight while waiting in the observation area after her shot. “It feels. Like this bright light at the end of this really difficult year.”
The Woodridge Local Schools building where Knight teaches has had a hybrid schedule for its older students and that isn’t likely to change for a while.
The vaccine might not be the immediate end of the pandemic, but it’s getting world History teacher Kevin Hearty close enough to be relieved.
“I’m praying that all of Summit County can get this vaccine,” said Hearty. “It’s an emotional time. I want everybody to have access to it.”
Cuyahoga, Huron, and Stark counties are slated to get their vaccine shots for teachers next week. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District already has a plan to vaccinate 12,000 teachers in a week at two of its high schools.
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