LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Lake County Schools is teaming up with the Florida Department of Health and Lake County Board of County Commissioners to offer free COVID-19 vaccines to select district employees, according to a news release.
Free vaccines will be offered next week to district employees age 65 and older, all school and district nurses and any unlicensed assistive personnel, the medication-trained employees who cover school clinics when nurses are not available.
The first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be administered to about 800 employees on Tuesday at the Tavares High School gymnasium between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Employees have been assigned arrival times based on an alphabetical listing of their last names, according to the release.
Lake County substitute teacher Rebecca Buehle was part of the first group to get the Pfizer vaccine at Tavares High School on Tuesday.
“This was very simple and very easy and I’m very blessed to have the opportunity today,” Buehle said.
Buehle is actually in Florida for a couple of months for the winter and said she’s glad the district stepped in to help her get the shot.
[WATCH: Lake County Schools offering free COVID-19 vaccines to teachers, nurses, others]
“I don’t stay at home all the time, I wear my mask but I think I’ll feel better once the second one is done and we are reassured but I’m just grateful,” she said.
Eileen Bender, a substitute teacher as well, also got the vaccine after receiving a phone call from the district over the long weekend.
“I was thrilled to get the phone call I was thrilled to be able to come down here I appreciate the district doing this. It benefits the teachers but it also benefits the children,” Bender explained.
Superintendent Diane Kornegay added that the vaccination event also helps more than just teachers but other employees who are constantly in contact with students.
“Our bus drivers, our custodial and other personnel that are 65 and older, they are with kids all day long, and so for them, they would have to take time off from work in order to get in the line with the general public,” Kornegay said.
The vaccine is already being offered to those 65 and older throughout the state but the Lake County superintendent said she hopes hosting vaccine events on school campuses will help make it easier for the district’s most vulnerable employees to protect themselves against the virus.
“Protecting our health care workers and those employees who may be most vulnerable to COVID because of their age was a priority for us,” Kornegay said. “We are extremely grateful to our partners for making this happen so quickly and we look forward to working with them in the future to expand distribution to more of our employees.”
The vaccine is free and voluntary to eligible employees, according to the release. Anyone who wishes to get vaccinated is asked to bring a driver’s license and their work ID. Those who receive the first dose of the vaccine should look out for an announcement regarding the second dose at a later time.
The Lake County School Board is also pushing for all teachers and frontline employees within the district to be prioritized as the state works to determine who will be included in the next priority group as part of Florida’s vaccine distribution plan.
During its meeting Monday night, the school board agreed to send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis saying that because many students are returning to campuses for face-to-face learning for the second semester, the district needs to have as many of its staff members on campus as possible.
“Placing them among the priority groups for vaccination should reduce the number of employees required to take leave because of COVID-19 illness or exposure,” the letter reads. “Let’s show them how much they are valued by officially identifying them as ‘essential employees’ and doing everything we can to protect them as soon as possible so they are equipped to continue the important work that they perform with our children every day.”
Other school districts throughout Central Florida, including Orange County, have also asked the governor to consider their employees a priority when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.
“OCPS has 875 employees who are 65 and older those who have not scheduled and received their vaccine can receive it next Sunday, Jan. 24 in a special clinic,” Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said. Meantime, the Orange County school board petitioned Gov. Ron DeSantis again after their request to prioritize school employees in the state vaccination rollout wasn’t granted. “We will continue to advocate on behalf of our 24,000 employees and especially for those who have direct contact with our students,” Dr. Jenkins said.
As of now, Florida is vaccinating only three priority groups: Health care workers, long-term care facility staff and residents and people 65 or older.
Click here for details on how to register for a vaccine in Florida.