AUSTIN, Texas - Annie Dragoo, an immunocompromised Austin ISD theater teacher, has been temporarily granted medical accommodations after being hospitalized with a virus during her first week back in the classroom.
In late December, FOX 7 Austin reported that Austin ISD rejected nearly 1200 medical accommodation requests and approved almost 90 for the spring semester. This was a stark contrast to the fall semester where the district approved over 1200 requests and denied almost 70.
Local teachers' union Education Austin filed grievances on behalf of over 100 educators granted accommodations in the fall and denied accommodations in the spring, including Dragoo. Still, Dragoo was forced to make a decision to return to the classroom or retire. Dragoo chose the former.
Classes resumed on January 5. Dragoo’s doctors believe she contracted a flu-like virus during her first week back. "When I went to my heart failure specialist he immediately walked me down to the ER… the virus settled in my lungs causing a lot of breathing issues and some pleurisy," Dragoo explained.
The virus means Dragoo has to go back on steroids, further compromising her immune system. Dragoo, who taught remotely this fall, has an autoimmune condition that attacks her heart and cancer. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
"I’m very frustrated that they didn’t just read -- I don’t know if they read my letters or not, but if they had read my letters, both doctors' letters explained that I’m immunocompromised and this is a high-risk situation for me," she said, adding that she believes her most recent hospitalization highlights just how high-risk her situation is.
Dragoo says Education Austin President Ken Zarafis contacted AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, making her aware of Dragoo’s most recent hospitalization. Dragoo was told she can teach remotely until March 1, when her case will be re-evaluated. By then, she will be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Still, she is upset it took a hospitalization for school officials to accommodate her request.
"I’m very scared. There’s a lack of trust on my part for Austin ISD at this point because they didn’t listen to my doctors when they should have, I got really sick," she said.
Dragoo says she is still scared to return to school after March 1.