Teachers, staff prioritized as a first step in re-opening schools safely

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (February 10, 2021) – After a day of set-up and a day of testing appointment and registration systems, TF South officially opened as a designated COVID-19 vaccination site for District 215 staff Wednesday morning, February 10. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is planning to hold a press conference at the TF South location later in the day.

TF South Principal Jake Gourley tests the microphone in anticipation of the press conference scheduled for noon Wednesday. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The District 215 Board of Education approved the agreement with Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) at a special meeting last week. The agreement designates TF South as a vaccination site for teachers and staff in District 215, as well as teachers and staff from feeder schools in the region. Depending on vaccine supplies, registration may later be expanded to members of the South Suburban Conference.

“This is our first site that is serving a designated population,” explained Caryn Stancik of Cook County Health, stressing that TF South is not a public vaccination site. Appointments are given via personalized email link only to employees of District 215 and feeder schools. Anyone checking in for their appointment is required to show District 215 identification or credentials before receiving the vaccine. Members of the general public who show up hoping for a vaccination will be turned away.

vaccination site
For District 215 staff members who show up without a vaccination appointment, Project Manager Jenna Green distributes a card with instructions for signing up. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Essential workers, limited supply, detailed process

Education personnel are considered frontline essential workers and became eligible to receive the vaccine when Illinois entered Phase 1B on January 25. Each time District 215’s administrative office was notified about a vaccination site opening in the area, that information was distributed throughout the district. However, many staff reported they were unable to get an appointment—even though they called immediately—because the supplies are limited and the demand is high. Having a designated vaccination site will reserve a supply of vaccines specifically for District 215 personnel.

vaccination site
Standing in front of the freezer where the supply of vaccines is held, Nurse Clinician Annis Fisher-Flowers describes the intricate process she and her team go through to thaw, mix, and draw vaccines into syringes, so that enough doses are ready for each hour’s appointments. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
“It’s all about the timing,” said Nurse Clinician Annis Fisher-Flowers. She and the team at TF South use a whiteboard to see how many doses they need to have thawed, mixed, and ready for each hour of scheduled appointments. They are using the Pfizer vaccine, which complicates the process. “Moderna you just draw out of the vial. Pfizer you have to mix, which adds a lot of steps,” she explained. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Choosing TF South

“I am thrilled that TF South has been chosen by Cook County Health to be a designated vaccination site for south suburban school employees,” said TF South Principal Jacob Gourley. “This is a significant development for all schools in our area as we work toward relegating this unforgettable pandemic to the history books.”

District 215 School Board President Michael Bolz credited Superintendent Sophia Jones-Redmond “for her really tireless efforts in pursuing this on behalf of the district and the staff and community members that are making this possible. It is no small endeavor.”

Bolz added, “Making the vaccine available to our teachers and staff is one critical step toward safely reopening our district’s buildings to our students. It also supports efforts to slow community spread of the virus.”

Not a public vaccination site

Both the School Board and Cook County Health are exercising great caution to avoid problems experienced at other vaccination sites. “We do not want to say anything that will lead folks to misunderstand that this is a ‘public’ site,” wrote Stancik in an email. Bolz affirmed, “We want to make sure people know that they will not be able to just show up and get a vaccine.” In fact, he added, people who show up without appointments only serve to slow down the vaccination process, as staff have to be diverted to deal with interruptions.


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4 COMMENTS

    • Agreed 😡Now the state is adding more subgroups to the 1b group at the end of Feb. which will make it even harder to get appointments. My husband is 70 with a heart condition & I try daily to get scheduled anywhere. It’s like winning the lottery.

  1. My husband and I are both seniors with health conditions. We haven’t got the first vaccine. this a very sad situation in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Thank you for nothing.

  2. Very hard (impossible?) for non-Assisted Living, non-Medical Personnel, Seniors residing in Lansing to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, regardless that they are in the 1B category. And, we seem to be limited to making vaccination appointments only within Suburban Cook County (not Chicago, not Lake County IN, not Will County IL), an area where a significant number of Seniors reside.

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