Half of Talawanda School District faculty receive first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

By Rebecca Smith

About 200 teachers and staff from the Talawanda School District received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday.

Although all Talawanda employees were offered the chance to be vaccinated under Ohio’s phased rollout of the vaccine, only about half participated. The vaccinations were not mandatory. 

Some people, who have already had the virus and recovered, chose not to get the shot, said Holli Morrish, director of communication and public engagement for the district. 

The Butler County Educational Service Center coordinates the vaccinations for all 10 of the school districts in the county. Thursday was the day designated for Talawanda. The shots are being administered at schools in the Lakota School District in West Chester. 

Talawanda schools were closed Thursday, as the teachers had to leave the district for the shots. Students stayed home, but were given work to take home with them. The process will be repeated Feb. 25, as the Talawanda employees are scheduled to go back to Lakota for the second shot of the two-shot vaccine.

Laura Packert, school counselor for Bogan Elementary School, received the vaccine Thursday and thought the vaccine distribution system was flawless.

“It was seamless,” Packert said. “Like a well-oiled machine. I waited in line maybe five minutes tops.” 

While some people have reported side effects after taking the vaccine, Packert said Thursday evening that she felt pretty normal.

“I feel great — a bit of exhaustion, but nothing like I was expecting,” she said.

For the many school personnel that were hesitant, Packert suggested everyone should make that choice for themselves.

“I would say everyone needs to do what is best for them- there is no right or wrong answer except for the decision you make for you and your family,” she said.

Last August, Talawanda provided all instruction remotely. That changed in late September when the district reopened schools while continuing to offer remote learning for those who needed to stay home. 

In mid-November, faculty absences caused by the virus forced the district to switch the middle school and high school to all remote instruction again, so that it could shift teachers to the elementary schools in order to keep them open for in-person learning. 

Face-to-face instruction resumed at the middle school and high school Jan. 18.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, 91,000 school personnel across the state have been eligible to receive their shot this week. About a third of the state’s schools have been teaching remotely since the pandemic began last spring.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he is hoping for all schools in the state to return to the in-person learning model in early March, only a few weeks after Talawanda school personnel are scheduled to receive their second shots.