More than 1,200 employees, teachers, and staff within the Phoenix Union High School District have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, part of a district-wide effort to get their staff and, hopefully, allow them to return to the schools and classrooms sooner than later.
Four drive-up vaccination stations have been set up at four of the district's high schools where the district's teachers and staff members can go and get a vaccine.
“They’re out here saving lives,” said Jason Rodriguez, an IT professional who works at Central High School.
Sarah Larkin, an instructional coach agreed. "It just gives me lots of hope and I’m very excited to get back into the classroom."
Phoenix Union has been in remote learning since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began. The district has remained in remote learning for the last 10 months, as cases in and around the district -- and most of the state-- have remained too high for in-person learning under the state's guidelines.
“I haven’t been in a classroom for almost a year now,” said biology teacher Wren Schulz.
The goal, according to district officials, is to get their 24,000 students back into the classroom as quickly and as safely as possible.
The district has also worked tirelessly to bridge the digital and economic divide to support its students, especially those who may not have access to a computer, the internet, or may need additional one-on-one time with their teachers.
The district provided 28,000 laptops for those students, said Richard Franco, director of communications of the district.
“Fifty percent of our students speak a language other than English at home, all of our students receive free breakfast and lunch,” Franco said.
ABC15 spoke with several teachers who said it was time for them and students to get back to hands-on, in-person learning, especially when it comes to teaching mathematics.
“Just being able to look in their eyes and be able to build those real-time relationships again and not have to worry about me being muted accidentally or the camera or Wi-Fi dropping -- and just have that human-to-human bond again,” said Kevin Bell, who teaches algebra and calculus.
Across town in Tempe, Arizona State University also hosted its first vaccine event for staff. Around 500 teachers were expected to be vaccinated on Friday with another 500 expected to be vaccinated next week.
“It gives us peace, they’re not having it easy, nobody is, but everybody’s trying,” said Creighton School District board member Angel Campos who was at the Central High School vaccine event.