ATLANTA — School district superintendents are hopeful when vaccinations begin for teachers, they will see fewer COVID-19 cases and their employees will be able to teach with a bit less stress.
Elbert County Schools Superintendent Jon Jarvis told 11Alive that is what played out in his district over the past month after 175 of 500 district employees were vaccinated in January when offered the vaccine by a local health care provider.
Jarvis said fewer employees have been calling out sick or needing to quarantine.
"The mindset of our employees - the ones that took the shot - has just been tremendous," he said.
Jarvis added some teachers who previously declined to be vaccinated are now telling him they want to be vaccinated when doses are available to all educators.
"They have more confidence in it," Jarvis said. "They've seen their colleagues that elected to take the shot the first time, and we haven't seen any side effects or had employees have any major side effects from the shot."
In Forsyth County Schools, the district recently completed vaccinations during clinics at a Browns Bridge Church for staff already eligible because they're 65 or older.
"(It was a great way for us to do a run-through as to what it will be like to offer the vaccine for almost 7,000 employees," said Jennifer Caracciolo, the Forsyth County Schools Director of Communications.
Soon, Forsyth plans to use the church again to have its school nurses host mass-vaccination clinics for the rest of the district's employees.
Similar to Elbert County, those already vaccinated are helping ease concerns or change minds amongst staff who previously weren't interested in the vaccine. Recently, Forsyth surveyed its staff to gauge interest, and now some are changing their response.
"Whenever we first sent out the survey, we had some individuals come back a week or two later and say 'I change my mind,' based on someone's experience with the vaccine. Or they may have done research on their own," Caracciolo said.
Meanwhile, Trent North, the superintendent for the Douglas County School System, their district is scheduled to vaccinate employees on a Friday and Saturday, assuming there is enough vaccine to administer to all of the employees of Douglas County School System.
North said the district will be partnering with Cobb and Douglas Public Health to offer the vaccinations. He believes the vaccinations will help raise the spirits of his staff during the middle of an ongoing pandemic.
"If you're nervous about coming to work because of COVID, once receiving the vaccine shot, that is going to eliminate the nervousness," North said. "Because of that, you're going to interact differently with your colleagues, you're going to interact differently with your students, and just that positive environment is going to return once again."
Despite school staff soon being eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations around Georgia, North will be offering his employees words of caution. It is unclear how quickly enough doses will be available to meet demand amongst the state's educators. At the same time, masks, social distancing and other precautions will remain important.
"We've just got to keep reminding ourselves and supporting one another to hold each other accountable, to continue to follow the guidelines that have kept us safe, so we will continue to remain safe until we are clearly over the hurdle of COVID," he said.
11Alive contacted several other school districts around the Atlanta metro area and asked about the plans they have made for offering the COVID-19 vaccine to their employees.
Here are some of the responses:
Atlanta Public Schools
According to a district spokesman, APS has been working on a large-scale plan for administering the vaccine and will announce the plan to the community once it has been finalized.
Cherokee County School District
Two options are possible.
A district spokeswoman said if the district is granted direct access to vaccine doses and given the authority to distribute them directly to their employees, interval events would be set up, where the district nurses would administer the vaccine.
The second option would involve working with the local health department or a private provider to establish vaccination events similar to flu vaccine clinics previously.
Clayton County Public Schools
The district is working with Clayton County Fire and Emergency Management and the Clayton County Health District to open an in-district clinic to provide the vaccine for teachers and other employees. This will be provided to employees on a voluntary basis once the vaccine becomes available.
DeKalb County School District
Working with the DeKalb Board of Health, the school district and 31 of its nurses will help administer vaccines to school staff at clinics.
Douglas County School System
The district will host a two-day vaccination clinic in partnership with Cobb & Douglas Public Health on an upcoming Friday and Saturday.
Fayette County Public Schools
No specifics are available yet, but a district spokesperson confirmed plans are being made currently to host vaccine clinics.
Forsyth County Schools
Mass vaccination clinics will be hosted at Browns Bridge Church, with vaccine doses being administered by district nurses. The set-up was put through a test run when the district recently vaccinated staff 65 and old who were eligible as part of the state's 1A+ vaccination phase.
Fulton County Schools
Through a partnership with the Fulton County Board of Health, vaccinations were already offered to district staff in the 1A+ category who were 65 and older. At Mercedes-Benz Stadium during vaccination events, more than 500 FCS employees were vaccinated.
The district will now use the same playbook to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to its remaining 11,000-plus employees who want it.
The district is planning two six-day sessions, one for each round of doses. Once final details are set, FCS will inform employees about dates, times, and how to participate.
Hall County School District
Working with its local Department of Public Health district and private local pharmacies, the district will be rolling out vaccine doses for educators. Plans currently call for clinics to be held at schools, with school nurses administering the vaccines. Pharmacies could also play a role in administering the vaccines.
Henry County Schools
The district recently submitted a detailed plan to Department of Public Health officials and was approved to create a "closed pod vaccination" site within the district. The site will allow the district to have its registered school nurses and other key medical personnel from the community administer vaccinations in a drive-thru clinic at the Henry County Learning & Support Center. Henry County Schools will also include private schools and daycares in its plan.
Rockdale County Public Schools
Plans haven't been finalized, but the district has been working with the Rockdale County Emergency Management Agency and the Gwinnett, Newton & Rockdale County Health Department to develop a plan to offer vaccinations to teachers and staff as soon as it is available.