YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown City Schools Superintendent Joseph Meranto made it clear Tuesday night: per CEO Justin Jennings, there is no plan right now to have students return to school for in-person instruction.
Meranto said Jennings has been active in trying to find out more information about vaccinating the school district staff.
Hence, students and staff returning to school in person will be based on what happens with the vaccines and also what happens with the pandemic.
“[Jennings] has said, and I support him 1,000 percent, that we will not return until we feel it’s really safe for our staff and students,” Meranto said. “We all want to go back to school ... but he wants to make sure that when we go back, we go back safely for everybody."
The Ohio Department of Health plans to start Phase 1B vaccinations the week of Jan. 19. It will focus on Ohioans who are age 65 and older and people with severe congenital, developmental or early-onset medical disorders. The goal is also to vaccinate adults who work in schools, with a goal to have in-person school by March 1.
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Meranto said staff could start to be vaccinated as early as Feb. 1, though he called March 1 an arbitrary date to have students return in person since it falls in the middle of the semester.
On top of the challenges to have COVID-19 safety protocols in all the buildings and enough staff vaccinated, there are also problems coordinating transportation for students to return to in-person instruction.
Right now, parochial schools also use Youngstown buses for transportation, Meranto explained. When Youngstown City Schools return in person, it will be difficult to easily transport students in a typical time frame because social distancing protocols don't allow full capacity in buses.
Meanwhile, Youngstown City Health District has been vaccinating in Phase 1A over the past two weeks. So far, about 500 of 800 Moderna coronavirus vaccines have been administered.
The health department asks people who qualify for Phase 1B to fill out the coronavirus vaccination form on its website, including school districts.
The form will help the health department plan for the right amount of staff and vaccinations for the next phase. When the health department can start vaccinating Phase 1B, people who filled out the form will be contacted to schedule an appointment at a vaccination clinic.