COVID-19 vaccines are available in limited quantities, but as accessibility for the vaccine grows, East Texas parents could be left wondering if at some point their children will be required to get one to attend school.
That call, however, is out of the hands of local education leaders. Spring Hill ISD Superintendent Wayne Guidry recently said vaccine requirements are decided by the state.
The Texas Legislature is set to begin session on Jan. 12. Guidry said requirements about the COVID-19 vaccine is something schools are looking to lawmakers to decide.
“There are multiple vaccines students already have to have; this wouldn’t be the first vaccine requirement,” he said. “But those were 10-year trials.”
Pine Tree ISD Superintendent Steve Clugston said the district has contracted with a company to get vaccines for the staff, which could be available Feb. 21-22 if the company’s supply chain is not disrupted.
Clugston said staff will not be required to get the vaccine, but they can sign up to receive it.
“Staff will have to sign up, and I foresee a vast majority of staff signing up,” he said. “It’s just like the flu vaccine or anything else, we’re going to make it available to our staff, and we’ll do our best to make it available to our students.”
Districts also are keeping an eye on COVID-19 cases during the holiday break.
White Oak ISD Superintendent Brian Gray said all the district’s COVID-19 mitigation policies still will be in effect.
He said the district has asked parents to report any cases to them and he and the campus principals are staying up to date on COVID-19 numbers in the district.
Clugston said Pine Tree is providing some testing for families of the district over the break thanks to a partnership with Diagnostic Clinic of Longview.
District nurses administer the tests that have a 24-hour turnaround time for results, he said. If someone’s insurance does not cover the test, the district pays for it.
“We’re only testing people with symptoms,” Clugston said. “It also helps us when a staff member has a sore throat or a headache but no fever. They can get the test, and they can come back to work if it is negative.”
The testing prevents teachers from having to miss more days to quarantine while waiting for results, he said.
When students return to Spring Hill ISD, there will be some changes. Last semester, the district decided it would end virtual learning when students return for the spring semester.
After students and staff returned from Thanksgiving, Guidry said there were some heightened safety protocols that will be put in place again after Christmas.
There will be no in-person meetings, all will be done virtually and staff are encouraged to eat lunch by themselves or at least 8-feet apart, he said. Only half of the kids will go into a locker room at a time.
Gray said districts will still do what they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re obviously going to continue with our mitigation policies and do what we can to keep kids safe and in the classroom and our staff safe,” he said. “We’re going to continue on and do the best we can.”