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Vaccinating educators should be a priority, Texas teachers group says

Hundreds of Central Texas teachers have contracted COVID-19 and several have died, but...
Hundreds of Central Texas teachers have contracted COVID-19 and several have died, but educators will have to wait to be vaccinated against the virus.(Katie Aupperle)
Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 7:04 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Hundreds of Central Texas teachers have contracted COVID-19 and several have died, but unless they’re older than 65 or have certain preexisting conditions, educators will have to wait to be vaccinated against the virus.

The Texas State Teachers Association is calling for action, saying all teachers must be vaccinated quickly against COVID-19.

“Our state took us from the front of the line,” Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina said.

“The least they could do is help us feel safe and give us access to the vaccine.”

Texas established 28 hubs in an effort to accelerate vaccination and is giving priority to frontline healthcare workers, residents and employees of long-term care facilities, residents older than 65 and those with chronic medical conditions that put them at higher risk from the virus.

Teachers weren’t included in the first phases of the effort, even though they may be at higher risk of exposure.

Zeph Capo, the president of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of teachers, says being in the classroom puts teachers in contact with dozens of others daily.

“It is really hard to tell a teacher who knows how quickly the sniffles move through that a contagious virus can’t be passed at school, be passed in the classroom,” Capo said.

The risk of exposure impacts the jobs and day-to-day lives of teachers, who are also dealing with the stress of juggling in-person and online instruction.

“We had to rethink how we teach everything,” Waco High School English teacher Alisa Keen said, “Every single thing from group work to no paper or pencil to how we present our lesson.”

“We have got to be able to pivot on a moment’s notice and just hang in there and keep swimming,” Keen said.

“It may look different from day to day, week to week.”

In the Waco ISD, 235 employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

G.W. Carver Middle School Principal Phillip Perry was among the first in Central Texas to die.

He passed away on March 31, 2020 in Waco after suffering complications from COVID-19.

In the Killeen ISD, the largest district in Central Texas, more than 600 employees have tested positive for the virus since March 16, 2020.

Ellison High School science teacher Cathy Falkner, who was diagnosed with the virus in November, died on Jan. 7.

“The overall majority of our teachers and school employees are parents too,” Capo said.

“They are having just as a hard time trying to figure out these different life choices in and out of work as anybody else is, and sometimes that gets forgotten.”

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

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