We’re extremely grateful for the role teachers have played in our lives, and the role they continue to play in the lives of children, teens and even adults today. And with the pandemic, it hasn’t gotten any easier.

We were delighted to see, in recent weeks, different boards, businesses and communities supporting our educators.

Weatherford ISD unanimously approved a “reliability stipend” for employees to show appreciation for their work. It’s also worth noting that in November, the same trustees approved auxiliary salary adjustments for employees in child nutrition, custodial services and busing.

Earlier this year, seven school districts in Palo Pinto County benefitted from donations by Palo Pinto General Hospital employees from their Christmas Fund, which employees donate to throughout the year.

Brock ISD’s new Education Foundation collected more than $225,000 from founding donors to be used for grants for teachers.

The recognition, both financial and verbally, is well deserved, but you know what else is important? Keeping these same educators protected.

We’re months into to a national rollout of COVID vaccines for essential workers in phases 1A and 1B. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those currently eligible are defined as follows:

Essential healthcare workers (1A): All paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. This includes persons not directly involved in patient care, but potentially exposed to infectious agents while working in a healthcare setting.

Frontline essential workers (1B): The subset of essential workers likely at highest risk for work-related exposure to SARS-CoV-2, because their work-related duties must be performed on-site and involve being in close proximity (less than 6 feet) to the public or to coworkers.

Teachers classify as part of the 1B group, yet according to the Texas Department of State Health and Human Services, they are not, at least not by occupation alone.

According to the DSHS, frontline healthcare workers, residents at long-term care facilities, people 65 and older or people 16 and older with a health condition that increases their risk of COVID-19 illness are eligible.

The Weatherford Democrat recently reached out to state officials about whether there were plans to include teachers on the vaccine eligibility list and if so, when.

We were told that the topic continues to be discussed by the COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, a team of appointed external and internal subject-matter experts who develop vaccine allocation strategies as recommendations of the Texas Commissioner of Health.

We’re not unsympathetic to the plight of our state officials — we understand there is a vaccine shortage and that it’s a struggle to administer doses to ones that do qualify as it is. Local providers and county officials don’t know week to week how many doses they will receive.

The Texas American Federation of Teachers and the Texas State Teachers Association have both expressed their concerns on the matter, with the TSTA issuing a response to Gov. Greg Abbott last month, noting that “our public schools and students will not be safe from this pandemic until every educator who wants a vaccine can get one.” 

The group also urged the governor and the Texas Education Agency to “give school districts the flexibility to close their buildings and conduct remote instruction, without losing state funding.”

But schools don’t have that option, so in the meantime, teachers are showing up every day to educate our students and risking their own health to do it. If that’s not the definition of essential, we don’t know what is.

But we do know one thing. Teachers deserve a raise — and a shot.

Weatherford Democrat

Trending Video

Recommended for you