Nurse Lashanda Turner administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Rosabella Manzanares on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, during a vaccination clinic at Betsy Ross School in Forest Park. Alex Rogals | Staff Photographer

Families with young children joined local, school and state leaders at Betsy Ross School on Monday, Nov. 22 at one of two kid-focused vaccine clinics hosted by District 91 and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

Parents and their children entered the school through a side door and were greeted by familiar surroundings, friendly faces (including a comfort dog), candy rewards and inviting decorations, all in an effort to make the process of getting immunized as easy as possible.

“I’m glad that we were able to help provide a comfortable place for [people] to come and get their kids vaccinated,” said Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins. “They did a really nice job of providing distractions so that the kids weren’t too anxious and scared about the shots.”

Sitting in a waiting area after receiving the vaccine, Sharonda Lecoure and her 10-year-old son, Jaison, said that after some contemplation they decided to attend the clinic to do their part to ensure a safe learning environment and to protect their family.

“And he also said that he’s tired of wearing a mask, that was his big thing,” Lecoure said. “Plus, I just want to keep him safe, especially with him being back in school. Every day it seems like I’m getting an email from the school that somebody’s been exposed.”

Lecoure said she was initially somewhat hesitant about vaccinating her child but ultimately researched the vaccine and its side effects, including having a conversation with her doctor, before deciding to move forward.

“All of my questions were marked off,” she said.

Children’s bandaids are seen on a table on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, during a vaccination clinic at Betsy School in Forest Park. Alex Rogals | Staff Photographer

Bright Thomas also brought his three children to the Betsy Ross clinic and expressed some of the same sentiment when explaining the decision to get his kids immunized.

“Since school started, we actually took a risk to send our kids without any protection [from a vaccine],” he said. “Now we feel a little bit of relief that they have some protection.”

IDPH reported that 62 pediatric doses, 110 adult booster doses and one additional adult dose were deployed Monday. The clinic was open to all ages eligible for the vaccine, including booster doses for eligible adults.

The clinic extended from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and a matching clinic was held at Grant White School, albeit without the presence of IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike, Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins, D91 Supt. Elizabeth Alvarez and D91 Board President Kyra Tyler, all of whom were among the speakers at a Monday morning press conference at Betsy Ross.

At the press conference, Alvarez stressed the importance of the vaccine and reminded students and parents that the potential impacts of the virus could still be felt this school year.

“As we all know, COVID-19 has been very unpredictable,” Alvarez said. “So we need to get ahead of it, at all times, because it continues to change every single day. And so we need to be proactive.”

The district reported 11 total cases of COVID-19 among its students and staff during the week of Nov. 14 to 20, a number that includes 10 student cases. That’s more student cases than any other week this school year.