SISD joins calls for teachers to be considered frontline workers

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Sherman ISD Board of Trustees passed a resolution Monday asking Gov. Greg Abbott to declare school workers as front-line workers for the purpose of giving them priority when seeking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sherman Independent School District joined a growing number of educators and education advocates calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to list teachers and school staff as frontline workers.

So that employees will be higher priority when seeking the COVID-19 vaccine, this week the school board approved a resolution urging the governor to label these jobs as frontline positions

"It is simply acknowledging the frontline status of our teachers and their importance in remaining healthy in serving our kids," SISD Superintendent David Hicks said. "It asks the governor to place priority on educators so they can be vaccinated quickly to keep the kids and their colleagues safe."

 Earlier this month, the Texas Tribune reported that a growing number of organizations are petitioning that educators and school staff be considered front-line workers. The Tribune reported that the Texas Urban Council of Superintendents, Texas Classroom Teachers Association, among others, have sent letters to the governor's office asking for this declaration.

Sherman Independent School District staff were surprised this semester with a $1,000 bonus check in recognition of efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representatives with Denison Independent School District said they have not passed any similar resolutions, but the school board is expected to consider one during its January meeting.

"The governor will have to prioritize different kinds of people and he has a very difficult job trying to manage that process," Hicks said. "In our view, our teachers and school employees are frontline workers, but we wanted to urge the governor to consider that as well."

The state is expected to receive enough of the COVID-19 vaccine to vaccinate 1.4 million Texans by sometime in mid December. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services has released some guidelines on who should be given priority with early waves of the vaccine.

The highest priority will be given to hospital staff working directly with patients who are positive or at a high risk for the infection. Long-term care staff working with vulnerable residents, along with the residents themselves, will also be given priority. Home health care workers and emergency medical service providers will also be included in the first tier.

Sherman Independent School district headed back to campus in August with in-person classes and distance learning options.

The second tier includes outpatient care offices that deal with symptomatic patients, freestanding emergency room staff and urgent care clinic workers, along with community pharmacy staff, among others. The second tier also includes provisions specific for school nurses.

Meanwhile, Hicks said vaccinating teachers may be one of the first steps toward returning to some level of normality. By doing so, state officials can ease some of the worries that come with returning to school and in-person lessons.

"Knowing our kids are safe and our teachers are safe will be the greatest indicator that we can return to school as normal, like last year," Hicks said.