Victoria Downey

Victoria Downey, a nurse at Discount Drug Mart, administers a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a local teacher during Friday's vaccination clinic at the Mid Ohio Educational Service Center.

MANSFIELD -- Rick Klingshirn stood up from his seat and looked around the room.

The conference room at the Mid Ohio Educational Service Center was transformed into a full-blown clinic. Educators sat in front in spaced-out chairs, waiting to be called up for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Klinshirn, a nurse with Discount Drug Mart, took advantage of the rare opportunity to stretch his legs as he waited on a new batch of doses. 

Less than four hours into the vaccine drive, he’d already administered 87 shots.

“It's like a well-oiled machine. It really is,” he said. “This is the first vaccination drive I've done. I'm impressed that it's so smooth.”

Friday’s clinic began at 7 a.m. with seven people scheduled to receive their vaccine every three minutes, according to superintendent Kevin Kimmel of the Mid Ohio Educational Service Center.

Close to 1,200 educators registered to receive their first dose Friday. Kimmel said any remaining doses at the end of the day would be administered to individuals on a wait list from Richland Public Health.

After receiving the vaccine, each person sat socially-distanced in a separate room for 15 minutes to be monitored for any adverse reactions. Some pulled out their phones, others chatted excitedly with their neighbors.

For many of the teachers, principals, aides, cafeteria workers and other school personnel, the day was about more than getting a simple shot. 

Sarah Fedeli chose to get the vaccine to protect the people she loves -- both in and outside the classroom.

“Some of my kiddos are immunocompromised, medically involved and medically fragile,” said Fedeli, a special education teacher at Sherman Elementary School. 

“I'm just glad to be protected. I work very closely with my kids and it means that it will also protect them,” she said. “And my mom's elderly, so it is good that I will be able to protect her, too.”

Brad Strong, a sixth grade math teacher at Malabar Intermediate, said the vaccine has given him and his fellow educators peace of mind after a difficult year.

“In my opening day speech, I talked about ‘This is a year of survival. We got to make sure that you don't get sick, you got to make sure you take care of yourself,’” said Strong, who also serves as president of the Mansfield School Employees Association.   

“Teachers are very notorious for caring for other people more than they do for themselves. This year, you got to care about yourself just as much because if I'm not healthy, I can't care for the kids. I can't do the things that I need to do for my classroom.”

“It's been a scary year. This is probably the hardest year of my teaching career.” 

Cindy Colvin said she believed parents will feel more confident sending their children to school once teachers are fully vaccinated.

“Many of the students that I work with, I can tell that they chose to be online because they live in multi-generational homes. They didn't want to endanger their older family members,” said Colvin, a former Woodland Elementary teacher working in the Tyger Digital Academy.

Those who received their first dose of the vaccine Friday will return for their second dose in mid-March. Although mask wearing and social distancing will continue inside local schools for some time, many educators see the vaccine rollout as a step towards a return to normal.

“You can't change a pandemic overnight. So it's going to take some time and we'll have to see what next year brings,” said Principal Genelle Eggerton of Western Elementary School.

“We're being as creative as we can be. But we can't wait for the day we can go back to being a full-fledged community and have those interactions without masks on.”

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com