SAN ANTONIO – The Texas Education Agency is preparing to distribute 53 million disposable masks, 18 million reusable masks, 12 million sets of gloves, 42,000 thermometers, 1 million face shields and thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer to school districts across Texas in preparation of the new school year to battle COVID-19.
TEA officials said the personal protective equipment is expected to start arriving at public schools between mid-July and early August. But officials said school districts aren’t required to use PPE, which is a big problem for a school workers union in San Antonio.
Alejandra Lopez, president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, said the union is grappling with what she feels is the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s clear to us that TEA is following the trajectory of Governor Abbott,” Lopez said. “By not making decisions that are grounded in what public health experts is telling us is necessary to stop this spread of this pandemic.”
Lopez said union leaders and members are thankful schools will be receiving the supplies, but believes a mandate to use them is vital to protect teachers and students.
The state has given the option for remote learning for families with health concerns, which Lopez said is a positive. Lopez said going forward, she hopes that the state listens to teachers, staff and students who will be impacted during the new normal in an effort to keep everyone safe.
Lopez said keeping funding flexible is key to safety.
“I think the state needs to maintain flexibility when it comes to funding,” Lopez said. “At the district level, we should not have to worry if whether or not we are going to have the funding necessary to continue to do our jobs during this pandemic.”
Lopez believes that there is a safe way for students and teachers to return to the classrooms in the fall with very strict guidelines that must be enforced. The alliance released its blueprint for safety Tuesday which you can read below.