The district’s poll shows 90% of teachers and support staff want the vaccine.
FALLS CHURCH-How many people want to take the COVID-19 vaccine? As they made plans to reopen, Falls Church City Public Schools wanted to know if their employees were going to take the vaccine. The answer was a resounding yes.
The division employs slightly more than 500 people. Out of those, the vast majority said they’re interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Vaccine total right now is over 90%, but I’m not sure of the exact number,” said John Brett, the district’s director of communications.
If 90% of roughly 500 staff members received the vaccine, that would be approximately 450 employees. That means approximately 50 chose to either wait to receive the vaccine or chose to decline the shot.
“I think we all would hope for all of us to be protected, but we certainly understand those who have chosen not to for various reasons,” Brett said.
While the poll was just an estimate, the district staff will get real answers today, as Falls Church hosts several vaccination clinics.
Brett expressed that he was unsure whether or not those who declined the vaccine would receive another vaccination opportunity through the school system. If they decide to get the vaccine at a later date, they may have to sign up directly through the local health department and wait for an appointment.
“So we could reopen our schools,” Brett said. “We need to have our teachers and staff vaccinated.”
Distributing the Vaccine
The vaccination event for school employees will not take place at each individual school building on Saturday. Instead, healthcare professionals will set up a central inoculation location.
As the day approaches, the school system will receive more information about the time and location of the event from the health department.
“As of yesterday, they’ve got a couple of places in mind, but they haven’t decided finally where we will go,” Brett said.
Brett also notes that employees in the FCCPS division will not be the only local vaccine recipients that day. Unfortunately, not all FCCPS said they want the shot will receive one on Saturday.
“I think they’re doing a total of 4,500 each day,” Brett said. “Falls Church will only have 200 of that each day. So we’ll do 200, 200 and then the rest, I think.”
The school division plans to have all of its employees that express interest in the shot vaccinated with the first round by Feb. 1.
Learning at a Distance
Until further notice, the school division teaches most of its students online. However, some students currently receive in-person instruction.
“We have hybrid for our special education and special needs students. It’s a cohort of about 80 kids,” Brett said. “We’re waiting for the metrics to turn around so we can go back hybrid with our elementary and our secondary. But right now, they are currently virtual.”
The division originally scheduled elementary students to return to the classroom on a hybrid leaning schedule this week. Due to the COVID-19 cases in the area, that did not happen.
“Last week, the numbers didn’t improve. We’re staying out until they do,” Brett said. “It’s a week-to-week decision. We decide on Friday if we’re going to go or not go the following week.”
Plans for the Future
Brett speculates that it could be weeks or months before the school division embarks on a hybrid learning schedule. He says they will reopen only when it’s safe to do so. .
“Once we’re fully vaccinated, then we won’t be looking at the numbers so much and we will go to the hybrid plan. But again, everybody will get the first dose by February. Then three weeks, the second dose after that. And then two more weeks after that. So we’re still a ways to go before the vaccine will help us reopen,” Brett said. “We’re hoping the metrics will come down so we can reopen in a hybrid [manner] before then.”
When classes eventually resume, students and teachers will still follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines. That includes wearing masks and keeping six feet of distance.
As the first vaccination event for the school system kicks off this weekend, Brett says he’s hopeful for the future.
“We really hope we’re at the beginning of the end of this thing,” Brett said. “We really want to get our kids back in the classroom.”
Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org