This past Saturday was a very important day for Fairbanks Local Schools in our journey through the COVID-19 pandemic. 106 Fairbanks school employees were part of a vaccination clinic that was the largest conducted so far by the Union County Health Department. Approximately 850 Union County K-12 school employees received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the clinic. I am deeply grateful for the health department staff, Union County EMA staff, first responders, our county school partners, and the volunteers who made Saturday run flawlessly. To say the day was remarkable, is selling its importance short.
Our school employees will receive their second dose on March 13, 2021. That is 366 days from when Governor Mike DeWine announced that school would be closing for a period of three weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the announcement of the original school closure, our team was in the office until 9:45 pm planning for the next several days. Leaving that night I felt dizzy. It was a paradigm shift that I had not felt since September of 2001. No one could have predicted the twists and turns we would face over the next twelve months.
Our students, families, and school staff have absorbed the challenges and changes of the last year incredibly. Support, flexibility, and perseverance are all words I would use to describe our community’s collaborative work in dealing with COVID-19. There have bumps in the road and disagreements, but each person has strived to do the best they can for Fairbanks. It shows in our words and actions. However, as we moved through this school year, there was always a sense that we would repeat the initial experience we had in March of 2020.
Then Saturday happened. The symbolism of this clinic was palpable for those in attendance. Diane Allen (Superintendent of Marysville Exempted Village Schools), Rich Baird (Superintendent of North Union Local School District), Matt Burggraf (Principal of North Union Middle School), and I started the morning greeting people as they arrived at the clinic. Hope was riding in the front seat with those driving in. It was amazing! For the first time since March of 2020, I had a sense that we have reached the top of the mountain and are starting to come down.
In schools and school leadership, working through crises is part of the job. The difference with this crisis and every other one that I have ever been a part of is the continuance of it. Typically, there is a cycle that eventually has a level of closure. COVID-19 has never allowed us to get to that point.
That is why Saturday was so important. It was a step towards closure. Whether you agree or disagree with the local, state, or national response, this was a step to show how we will come out of this pandemic. There has been immeasurable loss for people over the last 12 months. The loss of loved ones. The loss of jobs and economic stability. The division across communities. The impact on our most vulnerable – the elderly, the impoverished, and the young. Saturday was a symbol of hope. Hundreds of people working together to change the course for their community.
This year’s theme in Fairbanks Local Schools is “Hope Happens Here.” Saturday was the shot of hope we needed. We cannot wait to see all of our students on March 1st!
- Adham Schirg, Fairbanks Local Schools, Superintendent