Chicagoland

Archdiocese helping school personnel receive COVID-19 vaccines

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, February 17, 2021

An employee prepares to distribute the vaccine on Dec. 23, 2020, at St. Anthony Hospital, 2875 W. 19th St. During the week of Feb. 15, 2021, the Archdiocese of Chicago, in partnership with Agudath Israel of Illinois and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod school systems, rolled out a vaccination plan for all employees in the three faith-based school systems. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

During the week of Feb. 15, the Archdiocese of Chicago, in partnership with Agudath Israel of Illinois and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod school systems, rolled out a COVID-19 vaccination plan for all employees in the three faith-based school systems.

“We put together this alliance of Loyola, Agudath Israel — the faith-based school systems for the Orthodox Jewish communities — for the Lutherans and ourselves and submitted requests for allocations to the city and the county to take into account our 6,150 school personnel in those three systems and they agreed,” said Justin Lombardo, chief human resource officer for the archdiocese and lead of the COVID-19 Task Force.

Through the plan, school personnel are able to sign up for vaccination appointments at Loyola University Medical System, which in includes the medical center in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park and MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, as well as the Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov Elementary Hebrew Day school, which has an area dedicated to vaccine inoculations.

Teachers and school personnel are included in the 1B vaccine rollout in Illinois, which are essential and frontline workers, Lombardo said.

Through the plan, school personnel will receive an email from Loyola or the Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov School on how to make an appointment. To register, staff must use an archdiocesan email, Lombardo explained. A certain number of appointments will be released weekly.

“One of the things that is really important is that we do understand this will take weeks to roll out for teachers,” Lombardo said. “What’s important to us as faith-based school systems is that we believe in the equitable distribution of vaccines to all individuals and communities who are in the 1B category. But also, we have to acknowledge and be aware that there are vulnerable populations by ethnicity, race, age as well as medical conditions that also need to be cared for with this vaccine strategy, so it’s going to take weeks for everybody to get their doses.”

He continued to urge patience, because how quickly school personnel receive the vaccine depends on how many vaccines are allocated to the state.

As more populations are able to receive the vaccine, personnel across the archdiocese will be given up to four hours off to get each dose of the vaccine, Lombardo said.

“We’re going to help as much as we can,” Lombardo said. “We can’t guarantee a time frame for everybody, but having this dedicated system pulled together and with the assistance and full cooperation of our faith-based partners, we think that we created a structure that will serve our teachers and other school personnel very well to get the vaccine.”

Roni Facen, principal and CEO of St. Francis de Sales High School, 10155 S. Ewing Ave., said the archdiocese’s plan gives her teachers and staff peace of mind.

“You can’t do this work in a bubble,” she said. “It takes the work of everyone and so the archdiocese reaching out and saying we have this option for you through Loyola, through these community hospitals is huge. My families and my teachers feel like, ‘OK, there’s a clear path to get vaccinated and to do so quickly.’”

It also helps ease the mind of the families of students.

“All of our kids qualify for free and reduced lunch, so they are living, most times, in a multi-generational household, so there’s lots of concerns of kiddos bringing stuff home to older grandparents,” Facen said.

Many of her teachers and staff are older, so they are more vulnerable to the virus. Some live in Indiana, and about half of the staff has already received the first shot of the vaccine there, she said.

“It puts our teachers in a really good state of mind. They feel protected. They feel more confident that they can do the work that they are doing,” she said.

Topics:

  • catholic schools
  • covid-19
  • vaccine

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