How North, Northwest suburban schools could serve as vaccination sites

  • Wheeling High School could serve as one of a handful of suburban COVID-19 vaccination sites for teachers and others in Phase 1B under a plan submitted to Cook County by Northwest Suburban High School District 214.

      Wheeling High School could serve as one of a handful of suburban COVID-19 vaccination sites for teachers and others in Phase 1B under a plan submitted to Cook County by Northwest Suburban High School District 214. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/22/2021 9:33 PM

A group of North and Northwest suburban high school districts are coordinating efforts to host mass vaccination clinics for their teachers and staffs inside school gymnasiums, but it's up to the Cook County Department of Public Health whether they'll get that chance.

Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Maine Township High School District 207, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, Glenbrook High School District 225 and New Trier High School District 203 have applied to host large-scale COVID-19 vaccination sites for their teachers, other school personnel and those of their elementary feeder districts.

 

It comes as the state's next phase of vaccinations -- dubbed Phase 1B -- is set to begin Monday for a group that includes anyone 65 and over, or an essential front-line worker, like teachers, cops, firefighters and grocery store employees. Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Friday that it could still be weeks before those workers are inoculated because of continuing issues with supplies.

No matter when the vaccine arrives, school officials in the suburbs said they wanted to be proactive by reaching out to the county health department -- the agency charged with distributing the vaccine locally.

"Even if we are approved as a site, that doesn't mean we're going to get enough vaccines to take care of people," District 214 Superintendent David Schuler said. "But we didn't want to be in a position where if they reached out, we said, 'What? We hadn't thought about it at all.'

"If they would say we're ready to go tomorrow, we would make it happen," Schuler said. "To help us and help our community stay more safe, we would make it happen."

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County health department officials didn't respond to questions Friday about how schools might be included in the vaccine rollout. But Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison of Mount Prospect said the vaccine distribution process remains extremely fluid.

For now, he advised residents in the 1A grouping -- which includes front-line health care workers, and residents and staff members of long-term care facilities -- that vaccines are available by appointment in the Northwest suburbs at certain Walgreens, CVS and Mariano's locations, as well as the county's Arlington Heights clinic.

Schuler said he's been working with four other superintendents in the North Cook region to propose clinic locations that make sense geographically. District 214 is eyeing the gymnasiums at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights and Wheeling High School as sites.

Schuler said if every employee in District 214 and its sender districts chose to take the vaccine, that could mean as many as 6,700 shots.

District 207, which has proposed using the Maine East gym in Park Ridge as a clinic, hopes to provide the vaccine to its employees, and those of local elementary schools and park districts, which include many employees in the 1B grouping, Superintendent Ken Wallace said.

It's unclear if the school vaccination sites would be open only to people connected to the school districts, or if others would be included. But the superintendents say they're hoping for more answers from county officials by the end of next week.

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