State Rep. Ron Reynolds, one of Fort Bend County’s representatives in Austin, is among the state legislators calling for teachers and other school staff to be moved near the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccinations.
In a Jan. 14 letter addressed to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt, Reynolds and 34 other state representatives asked health authorities to include all public school employees in the group of people who can next receive the vaccine. Since the state began distributing vaccine doses last month, only frontline healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities and people over age 65 or with chronic medical conditions have been eligible to receive them.
The aforementioned priority group includes school nurses, school police officers and school employees who screen people for COVID-19, but not teachers and other campus staff.
"This month, teachers and students returned to the classroom after the holiday break as the number of Texans hospitalized with the coronavirus reached new records," the letter stated. "Teachers and staff will be at great risk of contracting COVID-19 and deserve the opportunity to voluntarily receive the vaccine. We respectfully request that members of the COVID-19 Expert Allocation Panel give all teachers and school support staff this chance so that they may continue their service as educators to the children and families of Texas."
Reynolds is the state representative for District 27, which includes Meadows Place, Missouri City, Stafford and part of Sugar Land. The biennial Texas Legislature session convened last week in Austin.
According to Fort Bend ISD's COVID-19 dashboard, there were a total of 321 active cases throughout the school district as of Jan. 15, with 199 of those cases among students and 122 among employees. There were 123 active cases at the elementary level, 62 in middle schools and 113 at FBISD’s 11 high schools, including at least 13 cases apiece at Bush, Dulles, Kempner, Ridge Point and Travis high schools.
After starting the 2020-21 school year exclusively with remote, online learning, FBISD reopened its campuses in late September and early October.
"Since Texas schools reopened for in-person learning, districts across the state have temporarily closed campuses after outbreaks, mourned the loss of educators and staff, and witnessed firsthand the challenges of returning to the classroom during a pandemic," stated the letter from Reynolds and other representatives. "... We stand ready to work with you to protect Texas educators and mitigate the spread of COVID-19."