Parents concerned about COVID-19 as Northside ISD students come back from winter break

Students went back the same day Metro Health upgraded the COVID risk level to ‘severe’

SAN ANTONIO – Parents of students at Northside ISD are concerned amid rising COVID-19 cases as San Antonio’s largest school district comes back from winter break.

It was a familiar sight on Monday after Christmas break -- masked kids waiting to get picked up by their parents.

“My daughter I have, she’s 11, and she’s in the sixth grade,” Norbert Martinez said as he waited to pick up his daughter from William P Hobby Middle School.

What’s not familiar is a missing teacher on the first day back.

“One of her teachers got infected with the COVID, so they had to transfer her and the rest of the students to another class,” Martinez said of his daughter’s class.

That teacher is one of 1,260 staff members at Northside ISD who called out sick. Not all of the call-outs are COVID-related, however.

Of those call-outs, 926 required substitutes to fill the position.

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Nicole Johnson’s little girls go to Colonies North Elementary School, another Northside ISD school. Both Constance, a kindergartener, and Taraji, a fourth-grader, noticed kids absent.

These absences are coming as vaccination rates in children remain low.

According to data by the Mayo Clinic, 10.6% of kids aged 5 to 11 in Texas are fully vaccinated. That percentage goes up to 52.5% for 12 to 17-year-olds.

Dr. John Fitch, a local pediatrician, hopes the number of children getting vaccinated goes up amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in Bexar County.

“We’re giving it to our own kids, which means we feel comfortable with the safety of it,” Fitch said.

Doctors say boosters are vitally important when it comes to the omicron variant.

For kids too young for the shot, Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist with UT Health San Antonio, said masks are key to staying healthy.

“Like a KN95 or an N95 mask, or at the very least, a surgical mask. Plain old facecloth covering -- it’s just not going to cut it,” Berggren said.

As it stands now, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson limit shots to those 18 and older.

Pfizer’s first two shots are approved for children as young as 5. But when it comes to Pfizer’s booster, only those 16 and older are approved.

The FDA wants that lowered to 12 years old, but the final decision is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They need these boosters. They need these vaccinations. And the more kids they get vaccinated, the better it is for everybody,” Martinez said.

COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility as of 1/3/22 (KSAT)

University Health says it will start offering the Pfizer booster for those 12 and up whenever the CDC makes its recommendation. The same rules apply, and children will need a parent or guardian to give written permission. Click here for more information.

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About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.