Local school employees receive first COVID vaccinations

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

About 1,700 school employees from 14 public, private, charter and specialty schools got their first COVID-19 vaccine shots Wednesday at Centerville High School.

Superintendents Tom Henderson of Centerville and Kyle Ramey of Oakwood led the way. Henderson said about 80% of Centerville staff signed up to get the vaccine, and Ramey said about 90% of Oakwood’s did.

“We’re just excited about the opportunity to add another layer of protection for our staff, our students and our community,” Ramey said. “Hopefully it’ll help us stay in school a little longer.”

Since August, numerous local school districts that wanted to have in-person classes had to move back to a fully online model for days or weeks. Often it was because COVID-19 infections or the related quarantines left schools without enough teachers to teach, or bus drivers to get students to school.

“We’ve been working hard like all school districts to follow all the safety protocols, but there’s always that anxiety,” Henderson said. “I think today will actually help lift that stress that’s on everybody’s shoulders right now. This is a big day.”

The vaccine site at Centerville is one of six for Montgomery County schools being run by Kroger pharmacy officials this week. Thousands more educators will be vaccinated by Kroger staff at sites in Dayton, New Lebanon and other schools in the next few days.

Other than Centerville and Oakwood, participating schools Wednesday were Alter High School, Incarnation, Holy Angels, St. Charles, St. Albert, Miami Valley School, Hillel Academy, The Goddard School, Alexandria Montessori, the Miami Valley Academies charter school and two behavioral service agencies that help students who have autism.

Educators signed up for a time slot in 15-minute intervals, waited in a line that snaked through Centerville High School hallways, then went into the school gym to one of 14 registration lanes with their ID and insurance card. Those Kroger employees sent them to one of 14 vaccine tables, where they got their shot.

Finally, they went to Centerville’s auxiliary gym, a socially distanced observation area where they waited 15 minutes and checked out. Educators going to those Kroger-led sites will get their second vaccine doses exactly three weeks later.

Some other schools’ vaccination efforts are being guided by Walgreens, Rite Aid, Premier Health, Kettering Health Network and others over the coming weeks.

Henderson and Ramey said both Centerville and Oakwood schools had students on a remote-learning day Wednesday so all staff could get their vaccines.

Centerville teachers union President Brian Cayot said most teachers seemed relieved at the chance to get the vaccine. He said a few Centerville staff were hospitalized due to COVID in the past year, but all recovered. Henderson said Centerville also had a student who was in the ICU due to COVID-19 last fall, but he also recovered and is back in school.

Cayot said the school’s current four-day-a-week in-person classes are going “pretty well.”

“Staffing’s been a challenge at times due to quarantines and exposures and having enough subs,” Cayot said. “One of our biggest concerns right now is making sure that our kids’ mental and social needs are met.”

The vaccination process started before 9 a.m., and at 3:30 p.m., Montgomery County Educational Service Center Superintendent Shannon Cox said there were still educators in line. Cox said the day went fairly smoothly, and she hopes the vaccine process will decrease the amount of educational disruption that schools have seen this year.

“It’s important for our economy, and it’s important for the social and emotional well-being of our students and our staff to be back in school,” Cox said. “We know that best practice for education is to have students in our classrooms, for a whole host of reasons — academic and more.”

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