Pre-K, early learning staff relieved to be on COVID-19 vaccine list


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Pre-kindergarten and early education staff are finally on the list to get the COVID-19 vaccine after months of advocating for the coronavirus vaccine here in Ohio.

Early education staff are included in the Phase 1C group, which can receive the vaccine starting Thursday.

Staff members at two separate early learning centers in Columbus said they are looking forward to receiving the vaccine, which they hope will lead to getting more students back into their classes.

“The ability to get the vaccination is offering a level of comfort to not only our staff but also to the families who are considering bringing their students back,” said Char Stilley, director of programs at South Side Early Learning. She’s hoping to slowly increase class sizes which have been reduced to between 4 and 7 kids.

“We’re currently housing in the mid-60s — attendance can kind of ebb and flow, but we would like to get it back up into the high 90s, low 100s, depending on what the community need is,” Stilley said.

Gina Ginn, CEO of Columbus Early Learning Centers, said she also feels that relief.

“We want to take smart steps as we move towards, kind of, I’d like to say getting back to the old way of doing things, but it’s more about what that new way looks like,” she said.

Part of Ginn’s mission pre-k includes services like speech and therapy as well.

“For our parents, you know, most of them are hourly wage workers who, when they’re at work, that’s when they are paid,” she said. “So, if they have to take off, they have to go to an appointment, they’re not making income for their families.”

Ginn is concerned therapists won’t be included in the vaccine rollout.

“Our concern is that we do have therapists and others that have yet to be prioritized or maybe their organizations weren’t prioritized because they do outpatient work and most of their work was being done online, so what we’re concerned about is being able to get those paraprofessionals back into our sites and working with our kids,” she said.

The Governor’s office said licensing specialists employed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services or county Job and Family Service agencies are included in the rollout.

Stilley said the vaccine is coming at an important time with a new school year around the corner.

“We could have six months of in-person school before kindergarten starts again in September, so we really want to capitalize on every possible day that we have to get children ready,” Stilley said.

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