CLEVELAND — As vaccinations around our area slow down, 5 On Your Side Investigators took a hard look at 10 Northeast Ohio school districts. We started examining staff vaccinations, but along the way we also found a unique program that’s definitely helped one local school district.
“We know that if it spreads in school, it’s very, very dangerous to take home,” said Superintendent Jeff Graham of Lorain City Schools. He and Assistant Superintendent Ross May received a lot of help in the fight against COVID from an anonymous donor that gave $200,000. The city of Lorain gave relief money as well.
“The support was incredible,” said May. “It was a game-changer.”
They used that money to offer free COVID testing to students and staff, the only public district in our area to do so. Graham said he only knows of one other public district in the country that’s offered the tests at no charge.
“Some folks (from our district) were skeptical,” said Graham. “Some weren’t sure what we were exactly using the data for. So, we made sure that we were very clear that the data that we were using was for us to make sure that we were keeping people safe.”
The district and its health partners kept it safe, reporting no COVID spread inside schools despite a 20% positivity rate in Lorain County at that time. The testing worked and that helped staff trust the district’s plans for COVID shots.
“So, the vaccination stood on top of all those layers of foundation already built,” said May.
We examined 10 area school districts
Lorain came out on top of our study looking into 10 area school districts for staff COVID vaccination rates.
LORAIN - 93.2%
HUDSON - 91%
WEST GEAUGA - 82%
AURORA - 80%
WOOSTER - 77.1%
“We’ve been talking COVID safety and we’re going to do everything we can to keep you safe,” said May.
Here are the lowest percentages of participation in our study keeping in mind some staff members got shots on their own and not through their district’s clinics.
PARMA - 70%
AKRON - 71.8%
CANTON - 72%
CLEVELAND - 74.6% - Expected
LAKEWOOD - 76.9%
“At this point we’re not mandating that and, again, it’s their decision,” said Jason Dixon, who is the Assistant Superintendent for Canton City Schools. He told us he’d like to get more staff vaccinated.
“Those people who were still on the fence and undecided, you know, the hope is that sooner or later they will decide that that’s what they would like to go and get vaccinated,” said Dixon.
Canton Schools' isolations and quarantines down
Dixon said that since the beginning of this year and with the help of vaccines, the district’s COVID isolations and quarantines dropped from 1,000 at the end of last year to now just under 500.
“From A-Z, everybody stepped up to the plate and really, really took this serious,” said Dixon.
That being said, Canton, at a 72% staff vaccination rate, is on the lower end of the districts we evaluated. The school system plans on more vaccination opportunities this summer. “The health department meetings, I’m on the phone with them daily, every other day,” said Dixon. “And so they keep us up to date with information on updated clinics, and when and where.”
In the coming months, districts will prepare for a whole new fall term.
“Don’t let up. Continuing to do our due diligence and making sure we are updated and have the latest and greatest information,” said Dixon.
“Our full expectation is next year is a normal year,” said Graham.
May said he expects a normal year “where we can start to put COVID itself in the rear-view mirror, but take some of those good practices and continue to apply them moving forward."