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Teacher vaccines open up the possibility for in-person instruction for most students in March/April

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Posted at 11:19 AM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 20:01:31-05

CLEVELAND — Many teachers across Cuyahoga County are getting their first COVID vaccines Wednesday as one of the first steps towards Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan to have schools reopened for in-person instruction by March 1.

Many districts have told News 5 that despite DeWine's goal, they plan to reopen only when they feel it is safe.

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Observation areas at CMSD's vaccine sites allow teachers to wait for 15-30 minutes to make sure they don't have negative reactions to their COVID shots.

Akron Public Schools has already announced their plan to bring students back to the building.

Starting March 15, kindergarten through second grade students and those with disabilities will return to school five days a week. Older students opting for in-person learning will start March 22.

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CMSD students will have the option to return to in-person instruction starting on March 1 in a phased-approach that will ramp up through most of March.

Constellation Schools announced that all kindergarten through eighth grade students have the option to do hybrid instruction on March 22.

“Families will still have the option to be educated virtually if they choose,” said Constellation Schools Education Program Coordinator Brian Knight in an email.

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Hawken School has handled an increased interest, at least partially due to the option for in-person instruction, with distanced students and plastic barriers.

Despite that, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) CEO Eric Gordon still isn’t committing to a date to reopen.

“We will continue to look at the public health data, which is improving in Cuyahoga County, that’s exciting news,” said Gordon. “I also want to see how this process works this week to see that we’re on track for vaccines.”

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Temperature monitors help screen people who enter CMSD buildings.

Gordon says Governor DeWine’s March 1 goal would be tight because his staff’s second vaccine doses will only be given in March. The District tells News 5 they expect to fill parents in on the plans for some kind of in-person instruction or hybrid option in the next few days or weeks.

“I do plan after seeing how this process works this week, hopefully it will work as well as we expect it to,” said Gordon. “That will give me enough information to provide a community update.”

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CMSD says its vaccine locations have the ability to process a large number of educators in a safe way because of the large gyms in which they are set up. As teachers are vaccinated, more students can return to classrooms, but many have been learning remotely for nearly a full year.

Gordon told the Cleveland City Council Monday that family survey data says about half the CMSD family population wants to remain in remote learning. The other half is like Natasha Lovelace and her high school-aged daughter.

“I’m rooting for the kids to go back to school,” said Lovelace, who adds that the feeling is mutual between her and her daughter. “With my 7 and 6-year-olds, I can help with addition and subtraction,” said Lovelace. “With my teenager, I cannot help with trigonometry.”

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Even after teachers get vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control recommend that schools still maintain social distancing rules and mask-wearing to prevent COVID spread. Neither COVID vaccine is approved for students younger than 16 years old.

Her daughter misses running track, seeing friends, and school work is just a little harder even with the best remote learning plan. For now, all Lovelace and her daughter can go is wait.

“Let me tell you, if they told me she could go back to school next Monday, she’d be dropped off early and ready,” said Lovelace.

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