Vaccine file photo

Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health District Director of Environmental Health Joseph Sternberg draws doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for distribution at the district health office in this file photo from December. Gwinnett County Public Schools officials announced the district's employees will begin receiving vaccinations next week.

Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers and other district employees who expressed an interest in getting the COVID-19 vaccine from the county’s health department will begin receiving information about their vaccination appointments this week.

District spokeswoman Sloan Roach said the first notifications outlining when teachers are scheduled to be vaccinated are expected to go out on Wednesday. About 52% of all district employees expressed an interest in getting vaccinated through a partnership between the school system and the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments.

Those numbers include 61% of the district’s 12,300 teachers, counselors, media specialists and school technology coordinators.

“As of now, plans are for the Health Department to begin vaccinations of GCPS employees beginning March 8,” Roach said. “The first group of employees to be vaccinated next week will get an email Wednesday afternoon with the date/time of their scheduled appointment.”

Local school systems are making plans to get their employees vaccinated after Gov. Brian Kemp announced March 8 would be the first day they are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Buford City Schools spokeswoman Katie Strickland said the north Gwinnett municipal school system, for example, is planning to work with a local pharmacy to vaccinate district employees once the vaccine becomes available.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses nearly a month apart, so educators vaccinated next week will have to go back to get their second dose around the end of March or in early April.

Roach said 600 doses of the vaccine will be dedicated to GCPS employees each day by the health department for the first two weeks after educators can begin receiving them.

Priority during those first two weeks will be given to people who work closely with students, including teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers and school nutrition workers.

“These staff members are those who are in contact with the highest number of students on a daily basis and in situations when social distancing may not be possible,” Roach said.

GCPS will provide six nurses and six intake staff each day to help health department staff at their mass vaccination site, helping to vaccinate the general community as well as district employees.

Roach said the district and health officials created a scheduling program to assign vaccination appointments to GCPS employees, with the goal being to make sure “small numbers of staff are scheduled throughout the day at all schools.” That means the number of teachers scheduled to get vaccinated each day will number in single digits, except at six large high schools.

“This will help to ensure that schools are able to cover for staff members who are out during the day,” Roach said.

The appointments are scheduled to be between 9 a.m. and 5:45 p.m., and some staff members will be scheduled to get vaccinated after school hours while others — such as bus drivers and school nutrition workers — will be scheduled for appointments on Saturdays.

“GCPS employees will continue to be scheduled after the first two weeks based on vaccine availability,” Roach said. “As a result, employees will receive an email notification the week before their appointment, alerting them to the date and time of their appointment. Appointments scheduled through this opportunity cannot be rescheduled.”

Meanwhile, teachers in neighboring Barrow County who have registered to get the COVID-19 vaccine through a partnership between that county’s school system and the Northeast Georgia Health District will get their first dose next week as well.

Barrow County Schools said the health district will administer the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on March 11, followed by the second dose on April 1. The school system announced on Monday that 56% of its employees have already registered to get the vaccine through this partnership.

“Barrow County School System will hold distance learning days on March 11, April 1, and April 2,” school system officials said in a statement. “Students will learn independently at home while teachers and staff receive their COVID-19 vaccine. Students will receive additional information from their teachers regarding their assignments.”

The distribution of the first dose of the vaccine will take place one day before the school system begins an already planned four-day weekend, with holidays already set for March 12 and March 15. The second dose, which prompted the two distance learning days in April, comes late in the week before Barrow County Schools is out on spring break.

Barrow County Schools will provide curbside meal services to students from 10:30 until 11:30 a.m. on each of the three distance learning days planned because of the vaccine distribution. The meals will include both a breakfast and lunch for students, and district officials said students do not need to be there when meals are distributed and families do not not need to show proof of student attendance.

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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