K-12 educators in the Texarkana area can soon have peace of mind after the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday that teachers in Texas are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I think there was just a sense of relief that we've been prioritized," Texas Middle School Principal Tim Lambert said. "We're up here working every day, and we're around a lot of kids. We're just really excited to be in that group now."
According to a memo released by DSHS, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services directed states to expand vaccine eligibility to include people who work in school and childcare operations. As stated in the federal directive, this includes:
"Those who work in pre-primary, primary and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed childcare providers, including center-based and family care providers."
Lambert said that while his school has done a good job of limiting risks when it comes to the pandemic, there was a sense of uneasiness for some while teaching around so many people every day.
"We stay focused on what we have to do for kids, as educators, so I don't know that we were walking around on eggshells," he said. "But I do know that there has been some worry. It's really the light at the end of the tunnel for us, just being able to maybe get back to a normal operation."
He said when schools are safe, it goes a long way towards making the surrounding community safer.
"I think it's huge," Lambert said. "The interaction with the community, we're a hub for that. If the school is safe and healthy, then I think the community itself is going to be safer."
Texarkana ISD released the following statement regarding the news:
"TISD is thrilled that the Texas (DSHS) moved quickly to immediately include school and child care workers in vaccine administration. It has been very trying for all as we watched other states prioritize teachers at the beginning of the vaccinations being released. We are working closely with area hospitals and vaccination providers to get information out to our staff as to where and when vaccinations are available. We also hope to possibly hold a vaccination clinic specifically for our staff but those details are currently pending."
The Gazette reached out to other local districts for comments regarding the news, but was unable to attain any.
While school districts are thrilled, colleges in Texas have been put on the back burner for the time being.
A spokesperson from Texarkana College said the following regarding vaccinations for higher education staff members:
"As of right now, faculty and staff of higher education institutions in Texas have not been included in the clearance for automatic qualification to receive vaccines. We are hoping to hear soon that this has changed."
Texarkana College has not yet received any word on when that change might be made.