Newark School District works to get teachers vaccinated before return to school

The Newark School District is scrambling to get teachers vaccinated just a few weeks before students return for in-person learning.
Hundreds of teachers were at the Essex County COVID-19 vaccine site at the old Kmart in West Orange on Monday afternoon to get the shot. County officials have set aside 4 p.m.-6 p.m. at the site for teachers through Friday.
Newark School Superintendent Roger Leon says that getting the vaccines adds to the optimism surrounding the plan to have schools reopen on a hybrid model starting on April 12.
“It was about flexibility and patience last year. Now it’s about confidence and resilience,” Leon says.
The superintendent says that 39% of the city’s families have registered their students to return to school in-person. He says that the district has been preparing for the day.
“We have had site visits at every one of our schools. We’ve had technology checks, making sure that the systems that are in place at each and every one of our schools are in check and ready and available for all of our staff. This is something that we’ve been doing for a good year or so,” Leon says.
Mavis Brown is a paraprofessional at Roosevelt Middle School in West Orange. She says that there is no excuse for teachers not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She says that it is beneficial for students to return to school, even if it is late in the school year.
“You see they're so emotionally fragile is what I notice from them. They need some kind of interaction, they need some kind of care. And so even if they're not in school for six months or whatever…I think it's worth it,” she says.
But even with all the planning ahead of the April 12 date, Leon says that the district is prepared for the worst.
“What we’ve shared as part of our reality of this new normal is that actually closing a school is not that scary of a reality,” he says.
The last day that Newark students were in the classroom was March 13, 2020.