Local school officials speak on COVID-19 vaccination, testing opportunities

Coronavirus

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As the second full school year in the pandemic continues, COVID-19 vaccines continue to be available through multiple ways in the Amarillo community: including the city of Amarillo’s clinics as well as various pharmacies and medical facilities throughout the area. 

As of Wednesday (Sept. 22), both Potter and Randall counties are reporting that more than 40% of individuals 12 and older are fully vaccinated. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Potter County is reporting that 44.02% of individuals 12 and older have been fully vaccinated. Randall County is reporting that 45.08% of individuals 12 and older have been fully vaccinated. 

Some school districts around the area have previously given its staff, as well as its students and other community members, the option to be vaccinated, or to receive a COVID-19 test, throughout the pandemic. MyHighPlains.com spoke with area school officials, seeing if they will continue to offer these opportunities to its staff and students, or if they are approaching it in a different way as the pandemic continues. 

Amarillo Independent School District

Amarillo ISD Superintendent Doug Loomis said the district offered vaccination clinics for staff last spring when the vaccines were first available for the masses. Now, with that initial demand over with, Loomis said the district has not seen the need for a vaccination clinic since then.

For individuals who contact the district about receiving a vaccination, whether staff, students, or families, Loomis said district officials have connected them to a vendor throughout the city. But instead of hundreds requesting that information, it has only been “two’s and three’s at a time.” 

“We have some anecdotal evidence that over 70% of our staff have taken advantage of (the vaccine). We had another portion of that that weren’t going to get vaccinated,” he said. “What we’ve done for the people who are either new to us or people… who have not been vaccinated up to this point… we are connecting them with vendors.” 

If the district sees a need to offer the vaccination for staff members, Loomis said they would do that. There have also been some conversations about opening the opportunity up to students. 

“We have had conversations about whether we will at some point hold vaccination clinics for students or not,” Loomis said. “We have really not had the request from parents asking us to do that at this point. We will continue to listen and if there’s a need for us to offer those, I’m sure that we will do that.”

Loomis said the district continues to have its drive-through COVID-19 testing site open for staff members, whether they come into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or who is symptomatic. This helps determine if the staff member should go to work that day. 

Loomis said if there is a need to open that testing capability up to students, the district would. But the district has not seen requests to open testing up to students. 

Canyon ISD

Canyon ISD has hosted numerous vaccination opportunities for teachers, staff as well as students and families since the vaccinations were made available. 

Chris Hall, the district’s coordinator of student services, said public clinics were hosted at the district’s junior high campuses late last semester, as well as clinics at Canyon ISD’s District Support Center, giving approximately 230 vaccine shots to individuals. The district also hosted on-campus vaccination opportunities for teachers and staff in the spring. 

Through these efforts, Hall said the district is not trying to force, or sway, anyone to get the COVID-19 vaccination. These clinics are efforts to make the vaccine more available to individuals who may not have had access to the vaccine in the past. 

“We get the good and the bad. We’ve had some parents who have been very appreciative of us offering those and others who feel like we are stepping outside our boundaries there by offering it,” Hall said. “They feel like we are forcing them, and that of course is not our intent. Our intent is to make it available for anyone who chooses to take the vaccination.” 

Hall said the plan is to host further vaccination opportunities in the fall on some of the district’s campuses, with none officially scheduled as of Wednesday. Hall said the district has also been in contact with the city of Amarillo’s public health department on hosting its mobile vaccination clinic at some point. 

Through the Texas Education Agency’s testing program, Canyon ISD is currently offering COVID-19 tests to district employees two days a week at the district support center. 

River Road ISD

King Hill, the public information officer for River Road ISD, said the district has not offered vaccination clinics for staff members or eligible students, stating that for those who are interested, they provide information about how to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. 

“First and foremost, we care about the safety of our students, our staff and our community, but our position is that it’s a choice to be made by the parent and the student or the community member,” Hill said. “Our primary focus is education. It’s not to take any political stance one way or another. We leave it to the individual, for the individual’s choice.” 

However, the district does provide COVID-19 testing to staff, students and community members. While the district is currently out of those materials, Hill said the district hopes that more supply is delivered in the next couple of weeks, continuing the program. 

“It’s a safety feature for our whole staff, our student body and our community because very quickly, (if) someone does test positive, then that family, that student, can take action and will try to preclude any subsequent infections,” he said. 

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