suburban school secures hundreds of doses of vaccine for teachers

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS) -- While teachers in the Chicago Public Schools system are teaching at home, educators in south suburban Chicago Heights already know when they'll get the COVID-19 vaccine.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, the school district there found a way to secure enough doses quickly for its staff.

The Chicago Heights Middle School is a brand-new state of the art facility.

"The building is less than a year old," said principal Will Seidelmann.

Yet COVID-19 has kept its 1,000 students from walking the new halls.

"And this building is welcoming kids," Seidelmann said. "We want kids in the building, but we want everyone to be safe."

In effort to get students back to in-person learning, Chicago Heights School District 170 organized a staff wellness plan and is now ready to give out 400 doses of the vaccine to its teachers and staff.

"We reached out to some places," Seidelmann said, "and out of sheer luck, Jewel-Osco was willing and able, and offered just one and half weeks in the 1B vaccination route."

One likely factor contributing this distribution is that the gymnasium at the school can hold can hold more than 1,600 people. But in this case it's enough space to cordon off three sections so teachers can get the vaccine in a socially-distant way.

"So we're doing everything to CDC protocols, and we're giving our staff and employees and awesome opportunity to get COVID vaccinated," said assistant principal Nick Pezzuto.

The never-used cafeteria will also play a role in this vaccine roll out.

"So people can be monitored for the 15 minutes after the vaccine," Seidelmann said.

If 400 of the district's 600 employees get the first shot next week Thursday, that means there could finally be a date for students to enter the building.

"Students will then return March 8," Seidelmann said. "(We're) still giving the students and the families the option - do they want to remain at home or do they want to start working on hybrid plan?"

And if any teacher isn't comfortable getting vaccinated, Seidelmann said: "There will be no penalty. We're giving the options to our staff members."

It's an option some teachers outside Chicago Heights wish they had.

"I have friends at other districts that are like, how is this possible?" Pezzuto said.

The principals believe good relationships and a dedicated plan paid off.

"For once in education, we had all the pieces of the puzzle together and it worked out really quick," Pezzuto said.

Read the full article here.