Hinsdale School District 86 is first local district to serve as Coronavirus vaccination site

Hinsdale Township High School District 86 is providing a service to its employees and the community by hosting Coronavirus vaccination sites at Hinsdale Central and South High Schools. Partnering with Osco, the district is in the process of vaccinating its employees, its elementary feeder school employees, local village staff and community members at-large. “It’s everyone’s school,” superintendent Tammy Prentiss said of the role she believes a public school should play within the community it serves. On Jan. 11, Prentiss participated in a weekly phone call with regional high-school superintendents and learned that the state was seeking sites for its phase 1B deployment of the Coronavirus vaccine developed in late 2020. During this phase, teachers, first responders, teachers, childcare workers, grocery store employees, public transit workers and all residents 65 and over are eligible to be vaccinated. District 86 and a number of surrounding school districts commenced preparations, hoping they would be selected as vaccination sites to provide convenient access for their employees. Prentiss said the district was “ready to roll,” armed with considerable data in its presentations to various third-party corporations, including Osco.

“We’re feeling very fortunate that we’re able to provide our staff members with direct access to the COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to the collaborative effort with District 86 and its other feeder schools.”

She said it also reached out to its insurance broker for assistance that first week. Following several Zoom calls with Osco, the district received the greenlight to provide 1,800 doses of the vaccine to its employees and its elementary feeder school employees on Jan. 25. “Osco has been fantastic,” Prentiss said. With no other surrounding districts having garnered site approval by the beginning of February, Prentiss said she felt as if she was holding the “golden ticket,” referencing Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “With our allocation, we were able to [provide access to] 100 percent of our teachers, building and grounds, support staff and [other employees],” she said. During the Jan. 28 board of education meeting, D86 board president Kevin Camden said there was “never any hesitation” that the district should pursue the opportunity to serve as a vaccination site. “I could not be prouder of our district at the moment with respect to the mass vaccination site,” Camden said. From Feb. 4 to 6, participating employees in District 86, Community Consolidated District 181 and six other public feeder districts received the first of two shots in the Central and South auditoriums. “Anyone who is in touch with our students, we gave them a link [to participate],” Prentiss said. … “Any level of protection we can offer our employees, we’re very grateful for.” According to District 181 communications director Jamie Lavigueur, 82 percent of district staff expressed interest in being vaccinated through District 86, all of whom had an opportunity to make an appointment.

Participating employees in District 86, District 181 and six other public elementary feeder districts received the first of two shots in the Hinsdale Central and South auditoriums from Feb. 4 to 6. 

Lavigueur said other staff members may have already been vaccinated, or “are receiving it through other means.” “We’re feeling very fortunate that we’re able to provide our staff members with direct access to the COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to the collaborative effort with District 86 and its other feeder schools,” District 181 Superintendent Dr. Hector Garcia said. “Vaccines provide another layer of protection for our school community, as our staff continues to provide a safe and academically successful learning environment for our students. During what is a very tumultuous and vulnerable time for so many, we look forward to the day when all communities have access to the vaccine.” In addition, District 86 collaborated with Gower District 62 in Burr Ridge to vaccinate overflow staff and private school employees within its attendance boundaries. “Everyone who is within District 86 boundaries who reached out to us, we are taking care of,” Prentiss said. The district made modifications to its attendance schedule in order to accommodate vaccinations.

“With our allocation, we were able to [provide access to] 100 percent of our teachers, building and grounds, support staff and [other employees].”

Participants were instructed to plan for a 45-minute time frame in obtaining the vaccine, and returned on March 4, 5 and 6—precisely four weeks after receiving their initial shots—to complete the process through their second shots. Prentiss said D86 employees have been “extremely appreciative” of the opportunity to get vaccinated at their workplace. “E-mail can be a scourge at times, but this is one time when it’s good to open up your e-mail,” she said. District 86 received more good news on Feb. 3, when it learned that it had secured an additional 750 doses to supply to elderly residents, as well as for village employees within its attendance boundaries and staff at the La Grange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE). Prentiss collaborated with Hinsdale village manager Kathleen Gargano in discussing this potential opportunity with Osco. On Feb. 10, municipal and LADSE employees and community members over 65 received their first shots. These individuals completed the process at the same time as the original wave of participants from March 4 to 6. Clarendon Hills village manager Kevin Barr said his village recommended staff take the vaccine through District 86 if possible.

“Vaccines provide another
layer of protection for our school community, as our staff continues to provide a safe and academically successful learning environment for our students. During what is a very tumultuous and vulnerable time for so many, we look forward to the day
when all communities have access to the vaccine.”

“We appreciate District 86 working on these efforts for the communities they serve,” Barr said. … “For the municipalities, it would lessen the risk of losing the ability to provide essential services, such as snow-plowing operations.” Prentiss described the additional doses as an opportunity “to provide equity for all of the villages and their employee groups.” As far as the impact of school staff vaccinations on potentially increasing in person student attendance in District 86 and its feeder districts, Prentiss said Illinois districts continue to be bound by Illinois Department of Public Health guidance that recommends six feet of social distancing and masks for all individuals on school grounds.

She said all regional public highschool districts are following this guidance, and that the ability to extend in-person instruction would hinge on the possible reduction of distancing parameters from six feet to three feet, thereby enabling more student capacity in classrooms and other spaces. “The only difference is that the employee now has that…vaccination to protect them from contracting COVID,” Prentiss said during the Jan. 28 board meeting. “There are no other changes. All of us still will continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, avoid those mass gatherings and wash [our] hands.”

*Photos by Marcello Rodarte

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