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With some local COVID-19 numbers on the decrease, students in Vandalia’s schools will next week return to the classroom for four days a week.
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Garrison announced via the district website on Saturday evening that the four-days-a-week learning plan would go into effect on Monday.
“I’m so excited. Ecstatic is probably the best way to describe it,” Garrison said about being able to have students in the classroom four days a week.
“I know COVID is not going away, and we’re going to have our challenges,” she said.
“But we have to continue to hopefully keep the Vandalia community group together with our public education, campaign and messaging that we still have to work together to keep business and schools open,” she said.
Garrison said the decision to get students back into classrooms four days a week comes a few months after such a plan was drafted.
“October, November and December, we worked on our four-day reopening plan, and then we had the ‘when’ (it could be implemented) conversation with the union. And that was all based on metrics of our positivity in cases per 100,000,” she said.
“What we did not consider, we had no idea by the December board meeting that we were going to be able to get vaccine, the first dose on Saturday,” she said.
As of Monday, 108 district employees, or about 50 percent of the district staff, had received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
“So, our next steps are going to be at the (school board) meeting next week of (discussing) what does that mean now that our staff that chose to get the vaccine have some immunity. “Obviously, there’s a second dose – we are one of the first in the state, as educators, to get 1B,” Garrison said, talking about how Fayette County was among the counties to get to the second level of vaccine shots, due to the county’s earlier COVID-19 metrics.
“So, my recommendation is going to be that we have some immunity, we really have to now switch to not ignoring the county level metrics, monitoring them and also tracking COVID-like symptoms within the buildings,” Garrison said.
Tuesday’s board meeting will include a discussion on where the district goes from here, she said.
“We were successful getting everybody the vaccine that wanted to, thanks to the health department,” Garrison said.
“My answer in December was that it was going to be week to week (in deciding on the type of learning within the district), but we have to now consider that we have the vaccine available.
“And, hopefully, 28 days from Saturday, we get our second dose,” she said.
“We have to now switch to what’s happening inside of our buildings. Are we seeing a large number of students coming in positive? Is it spreading in our buildings? What does it mean for the Vandalia School District when we have all of our kids back?” Garrison said.
The fears of some people about receiving a vaccine are possible side effects. Garrison said the only side effect that she has experienced is that her arm was a little sore from the shot on Sunday.
“There were some side effects, yes, but they were all minor side effects, no major side effects, and they were all included on our fact sheet of what we could experience getting the vaccine,” she said.
Garrison knows that there has been some frustration from students, staff and parents because of the hybrid and remote learning. She has felt it, too.
But, she’s optimistic that things will get better.
“As a parent, I understand the frustrations,” Garrison said.
“But, I hope we’re turning the corner and a month from now we can continue to celebrate, the next month, that we’re going to be learning together,” she said.
“The one constant that is going to remain is if we have so many staff excluded, we will have to switch to remote unless we find more substitutes,” Garrison said, noting that the board has voted to increase the pay for substitute teachers to $150 a day for the second semester.