EL PASO, Texas(KTSM)–For many El Paso students, it was the first day of school yet again in the 2020-2021 school year, this time back in the classroom, for the first time since March last year.
El Paso Independent School District and Socorro ISD brought back some students to the classroom on Tuesday while Ysleta ISD teachers and staff returned, however, students remained learning online for now.
The three largest school districts in El Paso have now all either applied or have already been approved with the state to be a COVID-19 vaccine provider.
A YISD spokesperson told KTSM the district applied to be a provider in November and was recently approved. As of now, YISD is awaiting guidance from the Texas Department of State Health Services in purchasing vaccines and determining how to distribute the vaccine.
EPISD applied to be a provider as well and currently partnered with UMC to administer vaccines to qualifying employees.
Eligible employees include those who are in Phase 1A, which includes healthcare workers such as school nurses and those in Phase 1B; 65 and older or those with chronic health conditions.
“The state is asking schools to reopen and teachers and students to come back to the classroom,” Melissa Martinez, an EPISD spokesperson, said. “We know a vaccine would go a long way in alleviating the concerns of not only teachers but parents in getting kids back in the classroom.”
EPISD said as of now, at least 300 employees qualified for the vaccine based on surveys sent out.
“We are working with available providers to get our EPISD employees on the availability list for a vaccine as those groups become available, so as employees qualify for those groups we are working with those partners in order to facilitate the process,” Martinez said.
Martinez said those in EPISD who qualified were able to go to their own designated line at UMC to receive a vaccine once they were registered. She said that time spent waiting in line for the vaccine is also allowable work in the event a teacher or staff member is called during work hours on short notice.
“What’s happening is once you’re identified as qualifying for that next group you’ll receive an email from human resource who will tell you where to register, where to go, when to go,” Martinez said.
In a board meeting on Tuesday, EPISD school board trustees also voted unanimously to extend paid sick leave and voted in favor of calling on Governor Greg Abbott to define district personnel as frontline workers.
“We want to do everything we can to ensure teachers are placed back on that frontline worker list,” Martinez said.
However, Martinez said they are waiting on more doses to become available to set up more appointments for staff.
The Socorro Independent School District said about 2,000 students were projected to return to campus on Tuesday.
Marivel Macias, the Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, said the district partnered with Immunize El Paso to vaccinate employees.
SISD vaccinated around 500 employees under Phase 1A, which included employees who administer COVID-19 rapid tests and anyone who provides physical therapy such as Special Education teachers.
“We have an employee clinic that has been approved as a dispensary,” Macias said.
Macias said with Immunize El Paso, the district had its first vaccination site two weeks ago at the SISD police station as a drive-thru event.
For the next group of vaccinations, Macias said the district sent out a survey to employees to determine who falls under group 1B. So far, about half of the surveys have been answered.
“Our goal this week is 100 percent that way we know who qualifies, so when we get the vaccines they can register their time slot and we cant get them vaccinated,” Macias said.
SISD is also pushing to have their site in conjunction with Immunize El Paso serve as a vaccine hub.
“We wrote a letter to the state supporting Immunize El Paso and hopefully they will approve them,” Macias said.
Macias said they asked for 5,000 vaccines to serve not just employees but also the community.
“So with Immunize El Paso it would be both, we have our list of employees that would qualify for the phase 1B but Immunize El Paso would then also open it up to the community,” Macias said.
However, SISD also said it has to wait for more vaccines as well.
“So as soon as we receive those first doses of vaccines I know we are ready to support our local clinic to get that out to SISD employees,” Macias said.