CLEVELAND (WJW)– Ohio school districts are making plans for school staff members to receive the coronavirus vaccine starting on Feb. 1.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said local educational service centers are working with districts on plans, and pharmacies or local health departments will administer the vaccine to school staff.
Akron Public Schools Executive Director of Business Affairs Debra Foulk said the district Wednesday was surveying about 4,500 staff members who have contact with students to gauge their participation in the vaccine program.
The district has been in fully remote learning since last March and is finalizing plans to start bringing students back to classrooms in February and March.
“We’re anxious to know when those allotments can be assigned to our school district,” Foulk said.
Parma City School District Superintendent Dr. Charles Smialek said the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio announced Wednesday that Giant Eagle and Walgreens will administer vaccines in the district as pharmacy partners.
He said the Parma City Schools hopes to offer vaccination clinics at school buildings and may also serve as a regional center for vaccinating staff of other districts.
“We’re absolutely ready willing and able to get the vaccines,” Smialek said. “We want these as soon as possible.”
He said he hopes vaccinations will help relieve staffing issues that have necessitated virtual learning days, including a lack of available substitute teachers.
“Getting vaccines into our staff will really reduce that need to quarantine,” Smialek said. “It’ll really reduce that need to cover absences and provide appropriate supervision.”
Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools superintendent Steve Thompson said the district is surveying about 1,200 staff members to determine who will take part in the program.
He said a previous survey found about 80 percent of staff members planned to be vaccinated.
Thompson said vaccine supply and availability are an ongoing concern, as is the timeline for vaccinating so many employees.
Even if school staff members begin to receive vaccinations in early February, it will be into March before they receive a second dose.
“The real question is how many vaccines are we going to have available?” Thompson said.
Thompson said the Lake County General Health District will administer inoculations, and the Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools planned to host clinics at the district’s two high schools.
The district also expected to implement virtual learning surrounding staff vaccinations to account for possible absences due to the vaccination process and mild side effects.
Thompson said he expects vaccination will help alleviate staffing issues the district has faced due to COVID-19.
“Our greatest challenge is staffing and keeping our staff healthy and in school,” he said.
The Ohio Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in Ohio, said it is encouraging vaccination and has heard from its local leaders that upwards of 75 percent of teachers plan to be vaccinated.
“It’s important not just for their health but to allow schools to have safer conditions so in person instruction is more possible in more places,” OEA President Scott DiMauro said.
DiMauro said he is not aware of any school districts requiring vaccination, which he said would be subject to collective bargaining.
A spokesperson for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District did not respond to a request for comment about its vaccination plans.