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How New Orleans Public Schools plan to get students ages 5-11 the COVID vaccine

Phoebe Jones
A vaccinator administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. March 4, 2021.

With COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 federally approved and ready to roll out nationwide, New Orleans Public Schools will hold its first vaccination event for younger students on Saturday, Nov. 13, school officials said at a parent town hall Wednesday night.

The event, which will be held at Arthur Ashe Charter School in Gentilly from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., will be the first of several district-sponsored opportunities. Tiffany Delcour, the district’s chief operations officer, said a full schedule of first-come, first-serve vaccine drives will soon be available on the district’s website.

“We are going to be focused on providing vaccines when parents can be present, and any parent and any child can go to any vaccine event at any school across our system,” Delcour said.

Events will not be held during school hours. Instead mobile clinics will be set up on Saturdays and school holidays when parents can accompany their children.

So far the district has coordinated vaccine appointments for 3,500 staff members and 1,200 students 12 years and older. While the district had initially hoped to stand up an event as early as this coming Saturday, Delcour said its medical providers won’t have doses from the state until Friday or this weekend.

“One of the benefits of being vaccinated is that if your child is identified as a close contact and is asymptomatic, they are not required to quarantine,” she said. “It provides a lot of stability for students that want to take part in more stable learning, and we really want to highlight that benefit.”

The district is encouraging all parents to get their children vaccinated.

Many schools already require teachers to be vaccinated, while high school students must either be vaccinated or commit to regular COVID-19 testing in order to participate in after-school activities.

NOLA Public Schools will continue to require masks in its schools, a measure recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Delcour said.

Schools will also continue to offer regular surveillance testing in addition to on-demand symptomatic testing. Since the district's surveillance testing program started in mid-September more than 15,000 students and teachers have signed up to get tested weekly. The district enrolls more than 45,000 students.

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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