Central Texas educators team up to send message: They need help getting vaccinated

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group of local school districts sent a letter to Austin Public Health Thursday, urging the agency to help 1B educators get vaccinated and make sure all educators are part of Phase 1C.

In Texas, Phase 1B includes those 65 or older and people who are at higher risk for a severe illness from COVID-19 with other medical conditions. The Texas Department of State Health Services approves the phases using guidance from an expert vaccine allocation panel.

“A lot of public education leaders have been a little frustrated that we haven’t had better access to the vaccine for our 1B eligible educators,” said John Armbrust, founder and CEO of Austin Achieve Public Schools.

Armbrust sent the letter on behalf of 16 other school systems.

Armbrust said collectively, they serve about 275,000 students and more than 100,000 of them are currently back on campuses. That’s why, he said, teachers, custodians, bus drivers and food service workers interacting with students need priority vaccinations.

Some, like the Hays Consolidated School District and Austin Independent School District are partnering with other groups to get their staff vaccinated, but the letter indicates that’s not possible for everyone — especially smaller districts.

“It’s great that AISD has found a way for their 1B staff to get better access to the vaccine, but that needs to be universal,” Armbrust said.

AISD bus driver Rae Hudson is among those still waiting for her shot. Last week, she told KXAN she was concerned about returning to school.

“I’m terrified,” she said. “Not everyone is taking the virus seriously.”

She tells us Thursday night she still hasn’t been able to get a vaccine, even though she falls into 1B. It’s something Armbrust has seen among his staff, too — most recently, with an administrator.

“Logging into the website every day, she’s been looking at all sorts of creative ways to get it, and she has been thus far unable to get access to the vaccine,” he said.

Armbrust says he knows APH is working hard to get the vaccinations to 1A and 1B groups as quickly as possible, but he says they’re looking even further down the road to ensure all their staff members get priority vaccination.

“Our biggest desire here in this letter is to make sure that educators at large, all of them are eligible for the next wave of vaccines,” Armbrust said.

He says the rising COVID-19 rate among younger age groups increases their sense of urgency.

Armbrust said APH responded to him Thursday, but they have no specifics yet on an educator vaccination plan.

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