When Georgia opened COVID-19 vaccines to teachers March 8, it meant that educators and school staff could receive the long-awaited shots. Atlanta’s Jewish schools have embraced the opportunities, with many of them hosting their own vaccine clinics so staff could be vaccinated as quickly as possible.
From pre-K to high school, Jewish educational facilities in Atlanta seem to have gotten their staff vaccinated quickly to protect themselves from COVID-19 as well as to prevent future outbreaks.
The Davis Academy, which dealt with a major outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-February, didn’t wait an extra day to vaccinate staff. The school held a vaccination clinic on the early hours of March 8 for its entire staff through Tuxedo Pharmacy. The vaccination clinic, which occurred almost exactly one year since the school paused in-person classes because of COVID-19, took place in the school gym, transformed overnight into a clinic so that teachers could receive their first shots on campus.
Other schools also hosted their own clinics with Tuxedo Pharmacy, including CMCH schools, Atlanta Jewish Academy and The Epstein School.
AJA vaccinated 90 members of their staff with the hope that the staff will be fully vaccinated next month, according to Head of School Rabbi Ari Leubitz.
While teachers have been in person since August, the vaccines will provide an additional layer of safety for teachers who have to come in direct contact with children, who haven’t been eligible for vaccinations, according to those consulted for this story.
Yael Katz, a first grade Judaic studies teacher, said, “Getting the vaccine was a bit surreal. … I look forward to the day I can teach my students without my mouth being covered.”
While the school continues with its current COVID-19 protocols, they will be modified once the staff is fully vaccinated, Leubitz said.
Tuxedo Pharmacy has been working to secure vaccines for the Atlanta community since October, with a particular focus on schools in the Atlanta area, Denise Gelernter, assistant to the head of school at The Epstein School, said in a statement to the AJT.
In addition to the Jewish schools, the pharmacy has vaccinated school employees at The Paideia School, Marist School, Woodward Academy, and The Galloway School, among others, according to the statement.
The pharmacy connected with The Epstein School and The Davis Academy through school parents and were able to hold clinics on the first day of eligibility at both schools. “We are so grateful to our community for helping to ensure the safety of our professionals throughout the year,” stated Epstein Head of School David Abusch-Magder. “And now, our community has helped connect us with the vaccine,” he continued. “We have operated in-person throughout this school year, and we are so excited for the new phase that the vaccine provides.”
While most schools the AJT consulted opted for hosting their own clinics, others are allowing their staff to receive the vaccine on their own and are supporting them during that process.
Torah Day School has been encouraging its teachers to get vaccinated by coordinating appointments and paying them for that time, said Head of School Rabbi Meir Cohen. While many teachers at Jewish day schools have been vaccinated, some took a little longer than others. Some teachers at The Weber School were waiting for the school’s clinic March 18.
Marni Karpel, a fourth grade teacher at AJA, expressed a common sentiment among those who received the vaccine recently. “Now I can breathe a sigh of relief and give even more to my job and the students.”
Roni Robbins contributed to this report.