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CMSD To Start Staff Vaccinations Next Week; Asking State For 10,000 Doses

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) is ready to vaccinate thousands of educators starting the middle of next week, including approximately 7,000 district employees, substitute employees and contractors and about 2,000 to 3,000 employees from non-public and charter schools, CMSD CEO Eric Gordon said Thursday.

The question remains whether state officials will come through with the number of COVID-19 vaccines needed.

Ohio is dealing with shortages in vaccine supply, acknowledged Gordon, who added he has not received assurances from state officials the district will get all the Moderna doses it needs.

“But they were excited at our capacity and thought that if they could get the vaccines here, we could get those 9,000 to 10,000 people through in a week,” Gordon said. “And so that's hopeful for me.”

School nurses will administer the shots at one site each on the East and West Side of Cleveland – East Technical High School and Max Hayes High School – once the vaccines are delivered by the Cleveland Department of Public Health. The vaccination sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday. 

“A number of our school nurses have already been trained by the Cleveland Health Department and have actually been assisting the health department in their one-day implementation,” Gordon said. “So it's not new for our nurses at this point. But these centers will be run almost entirely by CMSD employees under the supervision of the health department.”

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CMSD school nurses have been trained to administer COVID-19 vaccine shots and will give the doses to educators next week. [CMSD]

More than 75 percent of CMSD staff who completed the vaccination survey – which had a 65 percent completion rate – indicated they plan on getting the vaccine or have done so already through another health care provider. Gordon pointed to that as positive news, although he is concerned about the “very low numbers” for intent to vaccincate among the district’s African American employees, with just 35 to 40 percent of those who participated in the survey indicating they will get the vaccine or have already done so.

“Not surprising, when we know of the historic... bad behavior around experimental vaccines,” Gordon said, adding that CMSD is working with faith leaders and others to help educate the education community on the vaccine and the process of getting vaccinated — even shooting a video himself “walking people through the process from getting out of my car all the way to completion, so that you can see what to expect.” 

CMSD is also trying to generate social media buzz to encourage staff to get vaccinated, according to Gordon, with a hashtag campaign and selfie-stations at both vaccination sites.

“So that people can take pictures and share that they've been vaccinated, so that I can see that, 'Oh, I work with him,' or 'she's my neighbor!'”

Gov. Mike DeWine offered early vaccinations to educators with districts or schools committed to open in-person schooling in some capacity by March 1.  CMSD is aiming to open classrooms either at the end of March or beginning of April, Gordon said, but he added the vaccine distribution timeline and the Cuyahoga County COVID-19 case data will be factors in determining “when it’s safe to open” schools entirely.

“That second dose is coming in just a week before spring break. We'll have to ask ourselves that question [of when to re-open],” Gordon said. “But we are preparing for opening. And so, we're already beginning to mail information to homes to help families start thinking about their options.  Whether they want to move to hybrid, remain in remote, what their school day schedule will be.”

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