CLEVELAND — While some school districts have already started vaccinating their faculty, other districts are anxiously awaiting their vaccines to arrive this week, while others wait for further instructions for how to they’ll vaccinate staff.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s office has been working with the Ohio Department of Health and local Educational Service Centers to distribute additional vaccines each week specifically to vaccinate educators and school staff. The governor’s goal is to get first shots delivered across the state in February, allowing for all students to return to in-school instruction by March 1.
See which week teachers in your school district are scheduled to receive the vaccine here:
DeWine said each week about 100,000 vaccines will be distributed throughout the state to vaccinate the general public, prioritized by age. Approximately 55,000 vaccines will go to specific counties each week dedicated to vaccinating school staff.
Various districts say returning to in-person instruction by March 1 is an admirable goal, but they’ll return to class when they think it’s safe.
“If there’s one piece, one quote that’s stuck with me this entire time, it’s, ‘the virus controls the timeline,” said Parma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Smialek.
Parma students are learning with hybrid instruction right now and Smialek says it will stay that way until at least April.
“Despite the fact that we’ll have our staff vaccinated, do our families feel safe sending their children to school,” noted Smialek. “That’s another variable.”
Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon wouldn’t commit to a firm date either.
“The governor is expecting us to make our best faith effort and that’s what we need to do,” said Gordon. “Had the vaccines been available on Jan. 16 when the governor initially announced this, I think he had a reasonable expectation that six weeks later we should fully be able to do this.”
Gordon rolled out a plan to vaccinate 4,000 staff members a day at each of two large vaccination sites at Max Hayes High School and East Technical High School starting on February 11, vaccine supply permitting. CMSD is planning on vaccinating its roughly 12,000 staff members from CMSD and other non-public and charter schools in the area.
He’s hoping to resume in-person instruction at the end of March or early April.
“We’re not going to [resume in-person instruction] until we can guarantee the safety of our faculty and therefore, the care and safety of the students in our community,” said Gordon.
While Cuyahoga County schools wait, Summit County and Medina County schools are getting their vaccines this week because they were two of the ten lucky counties that got picked to go first.
“I believe it’s just a numbers game and trying to spread the wealth as far as we can,” said Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.
Summit County will use the drive-through vaccine distribution model they used for medical personnel and Phase 1B Ohioans while other medical providers handle the rest of the county. Skoda says they’ll start vaccinating 1,600 school staff on Feb. 6.
Medina County has partnered with Discount Drug Mart to vaccinate all of the county’s educators.
“We’re going to cover all schools within one day and that’s going to be Thursday, Feb 4,” said Discount Drug Mart Director of Pharmacy Operations Jason Briscoe.
Educators and parents hope this vaccine rollout is one of the final pieces to returning to a more traditional education model.
Angela Revay’s Parma High School students have been bouncing back and forth between all-remote and hybrid instruction for nearly a year.
“I never imagined we’d be this far into the year and still dealing with this,” said Revay.
She says teachers and students have worked hard all year to make the best of the uncertain learning environment, but it’s still a struggle.
“No matter how well that teachers are doing and how hard the students are working, there’s always a component that’s missing [during remote instruction,]” said Revay.
Smialek points out that returning to the classroom is the goal, but with all students in the building, social-distancing won’t be possible. The Centers for Disease Control say as long as students and teachers follow mask guidelines, schools have not been a major source of community spread.
As teachers and students get closer to what could be the end of a very unusual school year, Constellation Schools Education Coordinator Brian Knight says everyone is running a marathon no one signed up for.
“We’re at mile 24 or 25 and we don’t want to do something where we’re going to break a leg heading down the last mile,” said Knight.
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