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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

First CPS Staff Receive Vaccination: 'I Feel Like It's Prayers Answered'

Courtesy of Cincinnati Public Schools
Lanier Hardy, a building engineer at John P. Parker School, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 28, 2021.

On Thursday, the first 400 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered to Cincinnati Public Schools teachers and staff.

Just four days before teachers begin returning to the classroom, vaccinations will be administered at Mt. Airy School and the Duke Energy Center. The first group of vaccinations will go to teachers and paraprofessionals from pre-K through third grade, as well as specialized classrooms. Consuelo Esteves teaches kindergarten at Covedale.

"I feel very honored," Esteves said. "I almost feel like it's prayers answered because I do have some underlying medical conditions that I've been worried about, so I'm happy about that."

She said she was concerned about returning, but she felt safer after consulting with health professionals.

"In a perfect sense, I wish that we were all completely dosed and vaccinated before going in," Esteves said. "There's just a lot of things going on and I hope that other teachers that have been in school every day since the beginning of the year also get this great opportunity soon."

Lanier Hardy is a building engineer at John P. Parker School. Hardy is a Black man and is encouraging others to get vaccinated, especially in the Black community.

"I say, 'Pass the baton,' especially to the millennials," Lanier said. "Let me be that example."

Angel Roddy is the principal of Mt. Airy School. She said the school is "extremely safe" and the children and staff have been following COVID-19 guidelines while they've been in school.

"The masks don't bother them," Roddy said. "They're just so happy to be back with the teachers who they love so much and they miss and their friends."

Staff members will be getting vaccinated Friday at Mt. Airy School and Saturday at the Duke Energy Center. At least 1,950 teachers are expected to get vaccinated through this three day stretch.

A survey asked roughly 4,000 CPS staff members if they were interested in receiving the vaccine, and 600 said they did not want to receive it.

Superintendent Receives Vaccine

Superintendent Laura Mitchell received a vaccine on Thursday, despite not being a part of the first group that was supposed to receive vaccinations. When asked about how she received the vaccine before other school-based employees, CPS provided this response:

"As a leader in the Cincinnati community, I cannot ask our staff to step forward and be vaccinated if I am not willing to do the same, especially knowing the hesitancy that some people feel about the vaccine," Mitchell said. "It was personally important for me to be here today to demonstrate my belief that this vaccine is not only safe, but is the way we move forward."

The first group that was supposed to receive vaccinations includes teachers and paraprofessionals from pre-K through third grade, and paraprofessionals in specialized classrooms from pre-K through 12th Grade. One-to one paraprofessionals, nap aides, related service providers, custodians and building engineers are also included.

Group B consists of all other school-based employees. Group C will include employees based at the Education Center and Iowa Street, bus drivers, and CPS employees who missed the first two weeks and want to be vaccinated. A release from CPS says the district's vaccination phases will mirror its return to blended learning.

Cincinnati Public Schools says it is the first large urban district in Ohio to begin vaccinating its staff. At least 6,000 people are employed in the district, which teaches more than 35,000 students.

You can read the release from the school district regarding Thursday's vaccinations below.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.