Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Donna Thomas continues traveling to work daily from her home in southeast D.C. to prepare student meals at Capitol Heights Elementary in Maryland.
Although the cook of 28 years at Capitol Heights isn’t fond of taking many medications, she wants to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I love the kids. I want to do what’s right,” Thomas, 58, said. “I don’t want to catch COVID. It’s killing a whole bunch of people.”
Thomas plans to make an appointment as part of Prince George’s County public school employees vaccine rollout plan to administer the required two doses to its 22,000 employees.
Prince George’s schools CEO Monica Goldson joined the 1,400 scheduled for inoculations Jan. 30-31 at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover.
Although a snowstorm hit the D.C. region Sunday, the center opened for employees who pre-registered to still receive a vaccine.
School system support staff can set up appointments to receive the vaccine this week at the Kaiser Permanente Lanham Rehabilitation Center.
Other public school systems in the region hosted vaccination clinics during the weekend. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam visited the clinic in Prince William County Saturday where 2,400 staff members planned to receive a shot.
International chef Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen organization provided meals in the District for teachers where nearly 3,000 were vaccinated.
Back in Prince George’s County, the goal is to complete the vaccine rollout no later than March 27.
Goldson said the school system would have a better assessment on its plan to resume in-person learning in the middle of February.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Jan. 21 for all school systems to resume some form of in-person instruction on March 1.
“The governor does not have the right to do that,” said Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the county’s Educators’ Association who also received a shot Saturday. “He’s wrong and I think Dr. Goldson is doing the right job and we’re going to stand behind her and work with her to open our schools, but only when it’s safe.”
According to state law, public schools can assess its school calendars and when to reopen schools.
Although some smaller school systems in Maryland have conducted a mixture of in-person and virtual learning, some of the bigger systems in the D.C. and Baltimore areas haven’t opened their buildings for students since the pandemic affected the state last March.
The state could increase its daily dosage beyond 20,000 thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency providing $219 million toward COVID-19 relief efforts. Money will go toward operating six mass vaccination sites that include Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro.
Kristina Westin, a music teacher at Templeton Elementary in Riverdale, said schools can reopen for in-person instruction if the majority of teachers are vaccinated. In addition, she said a plan must be implemented to assess when students leave their classrooms and walk in the hallway, when to eat lunch and bus dismissal.
“I think the plan would be better [to reopen the buildings next school year], but there would have to be a lot of hard thinking to get back in the building … by the end of this year,” Westin, of Silver Spring, said after receiving a vaccine. “I would love to be back in the building with our students, but my school has 1,000 students and we are bursting at the seams.”