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More than 2,000 K-12 staffers in Tucson anticipated to get vaccinated next week
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More than 2,000 K-12 staffers in Tucson anticipated to get vaccinated next week

High priority school staff will get vaccinated first

TUSD will prioritize 970 in-person employees who are 65 and older for vaccinations. Above, Jolene Luquin hands out educational packets at Harold Steele Elementary School.

School employees in Tucson should be able to start getting the COVID-19 vaccine next week, but because of limited supply, schools and districts will have to prioritize who goes first.

Tucson Unified will prioritize 3,100 employees who are already working in person, including in-person special-education teachers and staff workers, custodians, bus drivers, food service employees and staffers in the Early Learning Centers.

Of that group, the district will prioritize 970 in-person employees who are ages 65 and over. They will get access to an appointment for the vaccine in order of age starting with the oldest.

“These employees, more than any other employee in our district, have answered that call of being physically present on our campuses and providing direct services to students in our classrooms, in our cafeterias and our buses and in our front offices,” said Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo. “I just think that there is no better way for us to acknowledge that hard work and that sacrifice than moving them to the front of the line.”

Tucson’s largest school district will get 780 vaccines next week for employees getting vaccinated from Jan. 20-24. That is nearly 10% of TUSD’s 8,000 employees.

Trujillo says he’ll get the vaccine after all his employees who want it have had the opportunity.

“It’s important that every single teacher, every single custodian, every single principal, every single employee that we have working on our campuses or set to return at some point to our campuses — they need to be taken care of first,” he said. “So, when I see that our workforce has had the opportunity, I’ll definitely get the vaccine — last.”

Sunnyside, with around 1,700 employees, will prioritize those required to come to work in person every day, followed by educators who will teach hybrid classrooms once schools reopen in a limited capacity. The district will get 140 vaccines next week.

There should be a larger allocation of vaccines in Pima County the following week, and the number of school workers getting vaccinated each week will increase accordingly, says school liaison for the county Health Department Brian Eller.

The number of vaccines being allocated to each school district is proportionate to their number of employees. The allocation for districts and schools next week is as follows:

  • Amphitheater — 190
  • Catalina Foothills — 80
  • Flowing Wells — 80
  • Marana — 180
  • Sahuarita — 90
  • Sunnyside — 140
  • Tanque Verde — 40
  • TUSD — 780
  • Vail — 210
  • Pima JTED Career and Technical Education District — 15
  • Private and parochial schools — 172
  • Charter schools — 256

Both K-12 and higher education institutions are sending the Pima County Health Department lists of workers prioritized by who will get the vaccine first. Employees can expect to get an email with a link to register for the vaccine when it is their turn.

School workers across the county will be getting vaccinated at a drive-thru super-site at the University of Arizona. Tucson Unified, which isn’t mandating the vaccine, will allow employees to get the shot during work hours. Employees not with TUSD should check with their school or district to see if this applies.

All school workers and those who work in child care are at the front of priority group 1B along with people 75 and older and those working in protective services including police, firefighters and emergency responders.

Pima County has not received as much vaccine as it had anticipated, prolonging the rollout to that 1B group, although some parts of the state have started to vaccinate school personnel, including in Maricopa County.

Pima County is receiving 12,000 vaccines from the state next week to cover portions of each of the 1B priority groups. School workers alone account for about 53,000 people in Pima County.

The week of Jan. 25, the state has said it will give the county more than 12,000 vaccines, according to Pima County spokesman Mark Evans.

How many educators a week can get vaccinated is dependent on how many vaccines the county gets but also dependent on the throughput at the UA site.

Another option for educators is to make an appointment at one of the 24-hour state sites in the Phoenix area.

The State Farm Stadium in Glendale opened Jan. 11 and is open to all Arizonans in that priority 1B group, according to Governor’s Office spokesman Ben Peterson. All the appointments there for January have been booked, but registration for appointments in February will open Jan. 19 at 9 a.m.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at dkhmara@tucson.com or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara

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