Forest Park Public School District 91 will not hold classes on Monday, Nov. 22 and Tuesday, Nov. 23 to allow families the opportunity to immunize children who are newly eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
While school may not be in session Monday, both Betsy Ross School, 1315 Marengo Ave., and Grant-White School, 147 Circle Ave., will host community vaccine clinics from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to Nurys Uceta-Ramos, the district’s family and community engagement manager.
The vaccine clinics are being held in conjunction with the Cook County Department of Public Health and doses will be available to all community members, not just school children or Forest Park residents. Online pre-registration at bit.ly/FPSD91Vaccines is recommended but not required. First-dose and booster doses will be available, with the district contemplating a second-dose clinic the week of Dec. 20.
Superintendent Elizabeth Alvarez sent a note to parents earlier this month announcing the decision to close the schools for two days, writing that the move was made in consultation with Mayor Rory Hoskins and other village officials. Alvarez added that the district is partnering with the Howard Mohr Community Center, the Park District of Forest Park, and the Forest Park Public Library to ensure child care is available on Nov. 22 and 23 for parents or guardians who cannot take off work.
In a follow-up letter this week, Alvarez acknowledged the challenges presented by closing schools on relatively short notice, saying, “It was not an easy decision,” but noting that a slight uptick in school cases, along with feedback she received from both parent and teacher surveys, precipitated the move. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, students will be out of session the entire week of Nov. 22. One of those days will be made up on March 15, Alvarez wrote, on what was originally a day off for students and an institute day for teachers.
In her letters home, she also advocated strongly for the vaccine, which has been widely adopted by staff and teachers in the district. Only four of the district’s 192 employees were unvaccinated as of Nov. 5.
The district reported 11 positive cases of COVID-19 among its student and staff populations the week of Nov. 7-13, far and away the highest total of the school year. There have been only 34 total confirmed cases in the district since Aug. 22.
“Getting your child vaccinated will not only help them, their families, neighbors, and friends be more protected from COVID- 19, but it will mean that your child will no longer have to quarantine if they are exposed to someone who gets COVID-19 at school and remains asymptomatic,” Alvarez wrote to parents. “This results in fewer disruptions to children’s learning due to quarantine as well as supports families who no longer need to scramble to find child care if their child has to quarantine.”
The clinics on Nov. 22 are the first in Forest Park specifically directed at children age 5-11 since the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was approved for that age group by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Nov. 2. Forest Park has been the home of several clinics throughout the pandemic, including a large-scale clinic at the former HOBO store in March.
The Howard Mohr Community Center held a vaccine booster and flu-shot clinic earlier this month, with around 100 doses of each distributed, according to Karen Dylewski, the center’s director. An additional clinic was held at the Forest Park American Legion Post 414 on Sunday, Nov. 14.
For older children and adults who don’t want to wait for the Nov. 22 clinic at Forest Park schools, Riveredge Hospital, 8311 Roosevelt Road in Forest Park, is hosting a clinic Sunday, Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be available to those age 12 and older, with the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine also offered to those 18 and older. Walk-ins are welcome at the Riveredge clinic. Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are also widely available through doctor’s offices and local pharmacies.
According to the Cook County Department of Public Health, 10,695 Forest Parkers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, approximately 74.6% of the population, an increase of 248 residents since Nov. 1. Sixteen new cases of COVID-19 were reported last week, a small uptick from the week prior but still at an infection rate below the rest of suburban Cook County.