CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As of Feb. 24, North Carolina’s Pre-K-12 educators, school system employees and childcare providers are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
To ensure teachers and staff in Gaston County had immediate access to the vaccine, CaroMont Health in Gastonia partnered with Gaston County Schools, local childcare centers and area private schools to host a three-day vaccination clinic.
The three-day event is the largest vaccination clinic in Gaston County to date, with plans to offer around 3,800 first doses and 1,500 second doses. Of those doses, 3,127 appointments were made by educators and childcare workers, according to CaroMont.
The event kicked off Wednesday, a remote learning day, when teachers had the flexibility to travel for the vaccination.
“I’m excited, I’ve been excited to get my shot,” Lisa Byrd, a teacher’s assistant at Lingerfeldt Elementary School, said.
Byrd says she’s been teaching there for nearly 18 years.
“We’ll still be doing our masks and hand washing and table washing to keep everybody safe like we were before, but I do feel like maybe it will help give me just a little bit of protection,” she said.
In Gaston County, teachers and students have been back in the classroom since August, under Plan B.
But starting March 1, the school district will be moving to Plan A for grades K through 5.
“The protocols we have work and we’re going to continue to exercise those protocols,” Jeff Booker, superintendent of Gaston County Schools, said.
Booker said much of the credit for the district’s return to in-person learning belongs to teachers, who he said have continued to show up no matter what.
“For us starting in August, we’ve had our kids in school two days a week, that was a big leap and our teachers did that and they have served well,” he said.
Booker called the vaccine a ‘game-changer’ and said he’s grateful CaroMont was able to vaccinate so many teachers on the first day of Phase 3 opening across the state.
Looking ahead, he says he and his teachers are eager to welcome students back into the building four days a week.
“It’s going to be like the first day of school because cohort A and cohort B will be blending together, so they’ll have new classmates, new experiences and so it will be close to being back to normal school,” Booker said.
For Byrd, the peace of mind she now feels after receiving her first dose of the vaccine parallels her excitement to see her students return four days a week, saying they desperately need it.
“Especially in kindergarten, the repetition and the in-person learning and having at school all the manipulatives and things at their fingertips to use, I think it will be a lot better for the students,” she said.
CaroMont Health said they continue to vaccinate eligible individuals in Group 1 and Group 2 in addition to Group 3 educators, as the vaccine is allocated and received from NCDHHS.
Those who wish to be vaccinated at CaroMontHealth may click here to schedule appointments as they become available or join an ‘Interest List’ for notification as vaccines become available.
To schedule a future appointment or to join CaroMont Health’s vaccine waiting list, please visit caromonthealth.org/vaccine.