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Area schools preparing vaccination plans

Employees of school districts across the state will begin getting COVID-19 vaccinations in just more than a week.

Mahoning Valley school districts are working with their county educational service centers to develop plans for getting most of their employees vaccinated, so most school buildings can be reopened for students by March 1 — a goal of Gov. Mike DeWine.

DeWine’s office had a meeting with all 52 educational service centers across the state, asking them to coordinate the gathering of information from each school district about their needs so the state can plan the vaccination process and rollout for each school district.

Trumbull County ESC has had meetings with local school superintendents and the governor’s office. Each school district will choose a provider to administer the vaccines from a state-approved list.

“We have been working cooperatively through Gov. DeWine’s office in implementing this plan for school employees in Trumbull County,” TCESC Superintendent Michael Hanshaw said.

About 90 percent of the Trumbull County ESC’s 416 employees have signed up to receive the vaccine.

In Warren, more than 900 employees, who either work for the Warren City Schools or are contracted through agency agreements to work in proximity with children, are eligible to receive vaccinations.

District officials are working with local health officials from the city and county health departments in coordination with the Trumbull County ESC in planning and preparing for the vaccination process.

Brookfield Superintendent Toby Gibson said the district is waiting for advice from state officials and the Trumbull ESC before finalizing its plans for vaccinations.

“We have about 130 employees that will be qualified to receive the vaccinations,” Gibson said. “We took a survey a couple weeks ago, and about 88 percent are willing to receive vaccinations.”

Lakeview Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor was among the superintendents who met Thursday with a representative of Giant Eagle, which is expected to provide the bulk of the vaccines made available to Trumbull County districts.

“They are going to break up the districts into smaller groupings to determine where we are going to send our employees for the vaccinations,” Taylor said.

Taylor said Lakeview schools have about 125 employees eligible to receive the vaccinations.

“We did a survey and found about 62 percent who have said they are willing to be vaccinated,” she said. “That’s above the national average, although I thought our average would be higher.”

Taylor said she would be in front of the line to be vaccinated. “I’m afraid of shots, but I should set an example,” she said.

Bristol Superintendent Christopher Dray said the district likely will work with Akron Children’s Hospital in the administration of the vaccines because the district already has a working relationship with it through its nursing program. The district has 86 employees eligible to receive the vaccine.

Mahoning County ESC Superintendent Tracy Hostetler said the vast majority of county school districts already have their students attending school five days per week.

Hostetler is working with 45 Mahoning and Columbiana school districts in determining their COVID-19 protocols.

Last week, Mahoning County’s ESC sent information detailing the number of school districts, their student populations and where the districts are proposing to have their employees receive the shots.

“Giant Eagle will be the largest distributor of the vaccines in this area,” Hostetler said. “The majority of our school districts are arranging to use these pharmacies to provide vaccinations for their employees. Some districts will use their local health departments.”

DeWine did not specify whether the schools should be open five days per week or through some type of hybrid program — where students are in their buildings two to three days and learning online on the other days.

Hostetler said “very few” Mahoning County districts are operating on a hybrid learning system now. “Youngstown is the only district that is fully online,” she said.

Youngstown, which has not had in-person classes in its buildings since March, still is evaluating its plans for reopening. In the district, 1,350 employees will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations once an official program is established.

Youngstown schools CEO Justin Jennings questions what would happen if the city schools reopen and employees refuse to get vaccinations.

“Will we be able to get enough substitutes?” he asked.

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