CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — As schools debate returning to classroom learning, staff with Chesapeake Public Schools are preparing to get their coronavirus vaccine.

On Monday, school division officials announced they would start vaccinating staff this week. During Monday’s meeting, the school board also decided to start returning students to in-person learning beginning Jan. 19.

Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton says the vaccinations will be another layer of protection for teachers and staff as they prepare to bring some students back to the classroom. However, there is some confusion surrounding the availability of these vaccines.

The Chesapeake Health Department says it’s more than halfway through administering vaccines in phase 1a, so they started integrating portions of phase 1b, which includes teachers. Therefore, just before Chesapeake begins re-opening schools, teachers who want a vaccine will be able to get one.

Late last week, Chesapeake Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton got a phone call from the Chesapeake Health Department.

“They said they had 1,400 doses of the vaccine ready to go and in truth, when they told us that, we said ‘How are we going to make this happen on such short notice?’,” said Cotton.

He wasn’t about to turn those vaccines away, so officials worked through the weekend to create a plan.

“Unfortunately, that does mean that we have to move some of our school days to online virtual days, but I think it’s a small sacrifice to make to have such a powerful mitigation strategy in place for our teachers and staff,” Cotton said.

Employees were told about the vaccines Monday afternoon. By Tuesday afternoon, nearly 700 people had signed up for the first round of the Moderna vaccine, which will be administered on Wednesday.

Cotton said, “Really, they just had about a day to sign up, so that’s an indication to me that staff members are really excited about this opportunity and they’re getting signed up.”

Employees are broken up into groups based on their jobs and there are specific days for people in each group to receive their vaccinations.

Cotton is confident that their current mitigation measures are getting the job done but believes the shots take that to the next level.

“This is such a game-changer for us, because it’s going to give our teachers, in addition to all of the mitigation strategies and safety strategies we have in place, it’s going to give them an additional layer of protection so that they feel even more comfortable going into our school,” Cotton said.

Cotton says he is grateful for the support from the health department.

All option 1 students are set to return to the classroom on Jan. 19.

You can find out more information about the vaccine schedule in Chesapeake on the Health Department website.