By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times
A.H. Parker High School has been thoroughly involved when it comes to slowing down the spread of COVID. The high school, located on 400 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd in Birmingham, has hosted a number of vaccine sites in partnership with The University of Alabama at Birmingham between February and June.
Principal of A.H Parker High School, Darrell Hudson says the goal with the vaccination sites is to keep the community safe.
“We want to ensure that our staff and our scholars come back into a safe environment,” he said. “We do realize that research shows that if you get vaccinated, even if you are infected by the virus… It will keep you from being hospitalized or keep you alive. Parker has always been more than just a school…and I must say that my faculty and staff… even the scholars- have really embraced the opportunity to host the vaccine site.”
The Parker High School site is a collaborative effort by UAB Medicine, the City of Birmingham, Birmingham City Schools and Jefferson County. Hudson says Parker High Schools vaccination site has been responsible for saving over one thousand lives in the city and surrounding areas, including the vaccination of more African Americans than any other site in the state.
“We work in conjunction with the superintendent and was given a point person from UAB. We met and they pretty much worked out the logistics once I provided the area that we would use. We were able to do drive thru, as well as walkups which this site provided that a lot of the sites didn’t. Individuals from the community can walk up and get the vaccine and wait that 15 minute in the observation booth, and they utilize [our] competition gym and the Fieldhouse… We were able to vaccinate 1000s and 1000s of individuals, a lot of them from this community, individuals that were coming up here to get vaccinated, right here off ahead of Parker High School… It was a great partnership, not only for us partnering with UAB but really partnering with the Smithfield community and the city of Birmingham.”
August 2nd is the start date for Birmingham City Schools like Parker High. This was a decision made by Birmingham city’s school leaders in early March to curve some of the education loss created by the COVID Pandemic.
Hudson says the earlier students can get back in the classrooms, the better it will benefit students in regard to their education.
“We feel the sooner we can get our scholars back in front of the teacher, the more time we have to start making up some of those academic gains…making some of those academic deficits that our scholars experience,” he said. “Each year, we have those intersession days that will occur after each grading period, but we felt the sooner we can get our scholars back in front of the teachers, the better it will be for them.”
With the school year right around the corner, talks off getting students vaccinated is a topic of severe priority. Hudson told CNN that majority of scholars are taking the opportunity to get vaccinated, however some students still have concerns about getting it.
“We tried to educate them, but I’ve learned the best thing is to let them talk with the nurses,” he said. “Let them talk with the scientists from a scientific standpoint.”
“We have had some to come around,” he added. “We do have some that are on the fence. And we have some that are pretty adamant about not going to take the vaccine, but we do try to educate our scholars. We’ve had this conversation with parents and guardians as well…But like I say, I think one of the best methods has been to let them talk with the nurses and individuals who have been doing this for a while, to give the pros and cons.”
Hudson says that in order to keep both the vaccinated and unvaccinated safe, extra safety protocols will be put in place as guidelines come for the nearing school year.
“We’re waiting on some guidelines to come out,” he said. “As the instructional leader and the principal of the school. It’s my job, along with the other administrators to ensure that every child who comes here, is going to be in a safe school environment, as well as every teacher, and staff member that comes here, that they are going to be in a safe area.”
“I want to give kudos to our custodial staff who have really gone beyond the scope of their job to sanitize and clean it [spaces throughout the school],” he added. “Ensuring that once our scholars leave, that they’re going to come back to areas that have been disinfected and clean, as well as our staff… our staff, the classrooms the bistro, the restrooms, everybody everywhere. They ensure that it is going to be clean.”
To encourage more vaccinations amongst students before the school year, A.H Parker High School and various Birmingham City Schools have partnered with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to participate in ADPH’S ongoing TikTok contest.
Persons between the ages of 13 and 29 are encouraged to participate by submitting a TikTok video showing themselves getting vaccinated or include a creative message explaining, “This is why I got vaccinated.” All videos must tag @alcovidvaccine, #getvaccinatedAL and #ADPH. Winners will be determined based on creativity, originality and popularity (likes and shares). TikTok videos can be submitted to the @alcovidvaccine TikTok account between July 16 – August 6, 2021.
A panel of judges composed of advertising professionals and ADPH personnel will select four winners who will each be awarded a $250 Visa gift card. Winners will be announced August 13 on the ADPH’s TikTok account and promoted on their social media.
Complete contest rules, information and guidance about COVID-19 can be viewed at alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19vaccine/tiktok.html.