COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — Columbus Public Health alerted educators and school staff this week that a vaccination roll out for the coronavirus could be slow as they’re all eligible to receive their first shots on February 1st.
“At this point in time, I do not have the vaccines to vaccinate Columbus City Schools teachers or staff,” said CPH Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts at the CCS Board of Education meeting Tuesday night. “You’ve got 9,000 employees. I do not anticipate getting 9,000 doses of the vaccine on February 1st.”
CCS is now prioritizing staff on who will receive the first shots as the district transitions to a hybrid learning model for its elementary school students, career tech kids and students with complex needs next month. CCS has been mostly full remote learning since schools closed last spring. The Columbus Education Association told ABC 6 On Your Side it wanted its members fully vaccinated before they walk back into a classroom.
To have employees eligible for the state’s Phase 1B distribution, CCS signed a form agreeing to have schools open for some sort of in-class instruction by March 1st. A series of teachers’ unions released a statement Thursday rebuking the commitments made by 98% of Ohio’s public school systems.
“We are disappointed that Governor DeWine has decided to use the distribution of a life-saving vaccine as a bargaining chip,” educators which included those from CEA said in the statement. “Parents across the state now have unrealistic expectations for a March 1 reopening that simply will not be possible in many school districts. In some districts, these expectations are already pushing superintendents to announce and plan for reopening before it is safe.”
Both CPH and CCS maintain the school buildings will be safe when proper masking and social distancing protocols are followed.
In fact, CCS Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon addressed concerns from board members about the kids not yet involved in the back to school plans such as regular education middle and high schoolers. ABC6 On Your Side obtained data from the district this month that shows less than 40% of CCS seniors are “on track” to graduate. At Columbus Downtown, Marion Franklin, South and East High Schools, the number of seniors on track to graduate are 15% and lower.
“We don’t want any student or family to feel that they are not important or their student is not important,” responded Dr. Dixon. “We are working on a specific plan for our seniors that will include transportation.”
The district maintains that continued safety guidelines on buses like one student per seat is preventing their abilities to bring more students back to the classroom for now.