West Harvey-Dixmoor school district get J&J vaccine in effort to restart in-person learning

HARVEY, Ill. (WLS) -- It's been over one year since students in the West Harvey-Dixmoor school district have been inside the classroom, but Friday, vaccinations were administered to school staff members and parents in an effort to get students back to in-person learning.

The classrooms may be ready but students have not stepped foot inside West Harvey-Dixmoor School District 147 buildings in over a year. Getting staff and community vaccinated is key to getting kids back, so Friday the Johnson & Johnson vaccine came to school.

"When the numbers are rising and they are rising in the community. So if we can service the community, as well as staff, then we know we are doing the best possible thing for our children," said West Harvey-Dixmoor School District 147 Superintendent, Johnetta Miller.

With the help of Howard Brown Health Center, Harvey's Rosa Parks Middle School gym was converted into a vaccination center for staff, parents and residents -- many of whom have been affected by COVID-19.

"I've seen a lot of young friends die," said Harvey resident Ismael Zambrano.

Parent Darryl Edwards has already had COVID, but he's hoping more of the school community will get vaccinated so his daughter can finally go back.

"Kids need to be in school. The video is learning is cool, but nothing like hands-on," he said.

It's been a challenging year for District 147, which is one of the poorest in the state and in an area where COVID cases surged.

Return to school dates have also been delayed several times.

"What we are waiting on now are air purifiers, everything else is in place," said Eric Lee, District 147 director of buildings and grounds.

Lee and his custodial staff have been working nonstop during the entire pandemic to make buildings safe, and Friday they received their vaccines as well.

"I'm scared of needles, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," said Mark Reeves, a District 147 custodian. "I feel a lot better."

With vaccinations and ventilation systems in place, the district hopes students will return to school buildings for a hybrid schedule by May. If not, definitely summer school.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.