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Akron teachers in limbo over COVID-19 vaccinations

780 doses available Saturday, 2,200 more needed
Akron teachers
Posted at 5:43 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 20:03:50-05

AKRON, Ohio — Terri Harrold, Tracy Donohew, and Donna Holmes all teach kindergarten at Rimer Elementary School in Akron. Two are ready to get the vaccine. One prefers to wait. All three want their kids back in their classrooms as soon as possible.

"Anytime they can safely come back, I'll be standing at the door waiting," said Harrold who has been with the district for nearly 40 years.

Akron teachers and staff have been in limbo over the COVID-19 vaccine, which is being administered in several Ohio school districts this week.

APS received 780 doses of the first shot. The problem is about 3,000 employees-- or about 90% of the staff-- have indicated they want the vaccine.

The district is planning to administer the available does this Saturday, but it's not clear which teachers will be first in line. It's also unknown when more of the vaccine-- and how much more of it-- will arrive from the state.

Harrold believes teachers will be notified by email if they're chosen for the first batch and she's ready to go when her name is called.

"I'll be the first in line to get it. I have family members who have COPD and other things and I would like to see and be around them," Harrold said. "I'm ready to take it as soon as my turn pops up."

Holmes is also on board with getting the vaccine.

"Even though I'm younger, I do have health issues and I talked to my doctors and that's their recommendation if I choose to stay teaching," Holmes said.

In a school year filled with pivoting and reinventing themselves through virtual learning, Harrold and Holmes said they are taking the waiting game in stride.

"I feel like when it comes, it comes. It's just kind of like they have what they have and they'll put it out there the way they need to," Holmes said.

"The district is large. I'm glad it's not me making the decisions because those kinds of decisions are hard to make and they need to go with what's going to be the safest for the kids and the district," Harrold said.

Donohew indicated she's not comfortable taking the vaccine for now.

"I'd rather for the ones that want it to get it and I feel like I'm healthy and I'm young. When the time is right, I'll eventually get it," Donohew said.

The teachers said this school year has been extremely challenging, but they feel like there has been a lot of growth adjusting to the virtual world.

"I hope there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I want them back. I would love to have them now if we could, but I want everyone to stay safe," Donohew said.

Even while facing uncertainty, the educators continue to make plans for providing a safe classroom when their young students return. That includes preparing lessons on spreading out and separating items they'd normally share.

"When we do come back, it's gonna take a lot of reinventing how we do things," Donohew said.

Governor Mike DeWine has indicated he would like Ohio's school children to be back in school by March 1.

Making that happen in districts like Akron could largely depend on when vaccinations that are in high demand are completed.

"If you can get the staff immunized as much as you can, we're gonna be here," Harrold said.