CHICAGO, March 5, 2021 – Chicago West Side Christian School (CWSCS) recently partnered with Saint Anthony Hospital to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for its entire school staff, with nearly all of the teachers and administrators receiving their second dose of the vaccination by the beginning of March.
With much of the negative news surrounding the rollout and distribution of the COVID vaccine, it’s something for CWSCS students, parents, and community members to celebrate.
Genessa Schulz, Director of Community Wellness at Saint Anthony, facilitated the connection as part of the hospital’s community-focused vaccination program. Saint Anthony Hospital serves neighborhoods on the near southwest side of Chicago, including North Lawndale, Little Village, Pilsen, Austin, Back of the Yards, Garfield Park, and Brighton Park.
“I know Chicago West Side Christian works really hard to serve the community,” says Schulz. “I knew they were in session seeing kids, and so to better support that opportunity, our goal was to get the staff vaccinated...and continue with the parents as well.”
CWSCS enrolls 142 students and employs 21 staff members, a number of whom also live in the Lawndale community. The school has been providing in-person learning for its students since the fall, thanks to the efforts of its COVID response team, which spent the summer of 2020 strategizing a plan for students to return to classrooms safely. The team—composed of CWSCS staff, and parents that are healthcare professionals or other essential workers—planned everything from sanitizing stations, to morning temperature checks, to social distancing requirements.
As a result, CWSCS has been able to remain open safely all year, even as the debate over how to equip schools everywhere to do so has grown increasingly contentious. In February, a Pew Research poll found that a majority of Americans — 59 percent—believe that K-12 schools that have yet to open should remain closed until all teachers who want a vaccine get one, compared to just 40 percent who say schools should reopen as quickly as possible.
With these vaccinations, CWSCS can give parents as well as teachers even greater confidence that their health is being prioritized, along with students’ education. “I am beyond thankful that we were able to get the COVID vaccine,” says 4th-grade teacher Michelle Carr, who says she hopes, “getting the vaccine will protect us and others and help end the pandemic.”
Schulz adds that Saint Anthony is extending its outreach, having hired 60 community members to connect with churches, retail locations, food pantries, laundromats, and other community organizations to educate people about the vaccine and to schedule appointments for eligible candidates on the spot. Saint Anthony has been able to administer 600-900 vaccinations each week, and Schulz says the next step is getting information to parents to educate them about the benefits. She hopes to dispel any reservations, so that eventually people will view the COVID-19 vaccine as they would a flu shot.
“We want as many people vaccinated as possible, especially those that are in front of our youth and community,” says Schulz.