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Monroe schools ready for vaccine

T-L File Photo River Elementary School, one of the buildings in the Switzerland of Ohio School District in Monroe County, is one site where COVID-19 vaccinations will be given to staff next week.

WOODSFIELD — Schools in Monroe County are preparing their staff members to receive COVID-19 vaccines starting next week, but the Harrison Hills City School District got a jumpstart on the process.

Harrison County’s school, employees originally had been slated for vaccinations next week as well, but they were able to receive their vaccinations early.

Harrison Hills Superintendent Dana Snider said the first round of vaccines already has been administered.

“Our staff received their vaccinations on Feb. 4,” she said. “Our follow-up vaccination should be March 5.”

Garen Rhome, administrator of the Harrison County Health Department, said his department was able to inoculate more than 140 staff members with shots that had not been used by the Phase 1A group of health care workers.

“We had taken enough delivery of Moderna in the weeks prior which was not earmarked for the big Friday rollouts. … We were able to take that Moderna over that period of time and put together enough. … We still do 10, 20 or 30 a day at the health department,” he said.

Rhome said he reviewed the plan with the state and the allotment for school staff that Harrison County would have received next week will not be shipped to the county. The inoculated staff will be earmarked for second doses in about 29 days.

“They announced the four-week sort of rollout across the state, but at that point our plans were far enough along that we didn’t want to change them. We had great buy-in from the adults at the Harrison Hills district,” Rhome said.” They had lined up a bunch of volunteer nursing staff … a whole plan in place with a lot of parts and a lot of people. … The decision we made was to stick to the original plan.

“We weren’t holding back to plan for that. It’s what we had available, particularly through our Phase 1A,” he said.

Rhome said Conotton Valley Union Local School District’s vaccinations are being handled through Carroll County and are scheduled to begin next week, according to the schedule released by the Ohio Department of Health.

Monroe County Health Commissioner Linda Dick said her department is ready to go.

“We’ve got our numbers from the schools and have worked with them. I’m expecting … 300 doses to come in from the state. With Monday being a holiday, I’m looking to see that come in either Tuesday or Wednesday, and we’re set up to go to each of the schools Friday. We’ve got clinics set up at the schools.”

Dick said more than 260 employees of the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District have signed up to receive shots. She said more people are opting to be vaccinated as confidence in the process grows.

“They’re not dying. They’re not getting real sick. Even from the first time I talked to the school about getting their staff to get the vaccine, they’ve had more people come to them and say ‘Hey, yeah I want to get this,’ so we might even have more than 260,” Dick said. “That’s why I went ahead and ordered 300. By the time the day comes, it wouldn’t surprise me if we had more people that want to get it. So we’ll have it available.

“We’ve worked really close with all of our schools, and I’ve traveled to all of them and they’ve really been good to work with on this whole pandemic,” she continued. “We’ll just get that vaccine and get it in the arms of people as quick as we can.”

Vaccines will be available to Monroe County school employees, including those of the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District, Mighty Grace Private Academy and St. Sylvester Catholic Grade School.

Vaccines will be available to schools in Belmont and Jefferson counties beginning the week of Feb. 22.

Schools and districts in Belmont County include: Barnesville, Bellaire, Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, Shadyside, St. Clairsville and Union Local public schools as well as the Belmont-Harrison Career Center and private institutions Green Pastures Classical School, Harrell Family Academy, Lone Oak Lifetime Learner’s Academy, Martins Ferry Christian, Olney Friends School, Scientia Classical Academy, St. John Central Academy, St. Mary, St. Mary Central, Tiber Keep and West Academy.

Jefferson County’s schools include: Bishop John King Mussio elementary and junior high, Buckeye Local, Steubenville Catholic Central, Dugan Academy, Edison Local, Hatcher’s Academy, Indian Creek, Jefferson County, Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Jefferson County Christian, Jefferson County Educational Service Center, Mary Seat of Wisdom Montessori, Steubenville City and Toronto City schools.

In Belmont County, many are anticipating the vaccines.

“I had COVID already, and it wasn’t a fun experience. Anything to temper that. I’m real excited about getting the vaccine,” Kim Clifford, senior English teacher at St. Clairsville High School, said. “I encourage everyone to get it. The sooner everyone is inoculated, the sooner we’ll get back to normal.”

Clifford said educators continue to cope and the administrators are managing operations during the pandemic.

“We have had some teachers contract it and we have had some students contract it, but for the most part it’s worked out real well with the virtual learning and the in-person learning,” he said. “I think we’re doing OK, but I would be lying if I said virtual learning was as good as in-person learning. That feedback that you’re getting constantly is so important. … You’re doing the best you can. You’re under extreme circumstances.”

Bridgeport Exempted Village School District Superintendent Brent Ripley said his district has been operating as close to normal for as long as possible.

“We’ve been in school pretty much all year other than a couple weeks of hybrid and remote. Bridgeport is full-go. We’re very thankful for that,” he said.

Locally, Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reported there have been 5,157 cases of the virus in Belmont County since the onset of the pandemic. There are 397 people isolated at home with active cases and 59 hospitalized, 4,608 recoveries and 93 residents have died after being infected.

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