AUSTIN, Texas - Austin ISD is preparing for teachers, faculty, and some students to return to classrooms this week. At the same time, Ascension Seton is working to get high-risk AISD staff their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Nearly 100 Austin ISD staff members received their first dose of the vaccine Saturday, according to Ascension Seton. Several more were able to get theirs Monday, but teachers who spoke to FOX 7 Austin said that doesn't make returning to classrooms any easier.
Wednesday, for the first time since March, Annie Dragoo will return to the AISD campus where she teaches musical theater. "I don't really have a choice," said Dragoo, referring to her financial situation.
"Even though I have three conditions that are on the top level of the CDC risk list," she added.
Dragoo is still undergoing treatment for cancer, heart failure, and autoimmune heart disease. However, her accommodation requests to work remotely this coming semester was denied because she isn't considered high-risk enough.
"It's a little hard to think you have to choose between your job and your life," said Dragoo.
Friday, she saw a glimmer of hope in the form of an email from Ascension Seton. Identified as being in the 1B category for COVID-19 vaccine distribution because of her high-risk conditions, Dragoo has the opportunity to get the vaccine sooner than she expected.
"After talking to four of my doctors, I have nine on my medical team and I talked to four, they all agreed that the benefits outweigh the risks for me. So I got it," Dragoo said.
Ascension Seton said teachers and staff members included in this round of COVID-19 vaccines were either over 65 or had high-risk conditions.
Dragoo got hers Monday, Karen Reyes, who also hasn't taught in person since March, was in the Saturday group.
"So I'm going back this week to the classroom, but I don't feel 100% safer. I think this is a good thing, a vaccine, and, even after the second shot, maybe I'll feel a little bit better, but right now everyone's still at risk. And I think we just need to be conscious of that," Reyes said.
One thing that helps a little is knowing their students have their backs. "My students, former students, all chipped in and purchased me a very expensive PPE. It looks like a spacesuit," said Dragoo.
"I'll be wearing that for at least the first six weeks until after this whole vaccine sets in and then I'm still going to be very protective," she added.
Ascension Seton said their Williamson County campus will begin rolling out the vaccine to Round Rock ISD staff this Thursday. They will also begin with faculty over 65 and those with high-risk conditions.