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TUSD gives COVID-19 update, plans to expand vaccination availability to students ages 5 to 11

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 10:44 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) will soon expand its vaccination availability for students. With a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel “okaying” the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, TUSD governing board members discussed what the rollout will look like.

“This is expected to then go onto the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] so that the approval and distribution of the vaccine will happen in the next few weeks,” said Leslie Lenhart, the communications director for TUSD. “We have been talking to Pima County about the steps that we would need to take place to begin to vaccinate our students [ages 5 to 11] within our schools.”

Officials say, with help from the county, the district will offer vaccination clinics at “as many elementary schools as possible.”

As more students return to in-person learning, TUSD is also increasing its COVID-19 pool testing. Five more schools are set to participate next week, with the remaining locations coming on board by the end of November.

“We are up to 83 schools,” said Lenhart. “In the last month, we have tested 5,380 individual swabs.”

Of those antigen tests, Lenhart says 28 were positive. That’s a 0.52% COVID-19 prevalence rate, which is below the national average of 4% positivity in schools.

“We sent out a communication [Monday] night to all of our staff letting them know how they can find the booster shots so they can schedule their appointments if they would like to,” Lenhard said. “Pima County will be bringing them to any of the clinics that they hold at our schools.”

In the second quarter of the school year, 2,239 K to 12 students were enrolled in the Tucson Unified Virtual Academy. As of October 21, 167 students returned to in-person learning.

Early next year, parents will be able to address board members directly. In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the governing board decided to return to in-person meetings. Sadie Shaw proposed the idea, saying teachers and support staff are around people every day.

“I think we need to model the behavior that is happening already around our district,” Shaw said.

TUSD plans to open the board meetings to the public for in-person comments starting January 11. The board will discuss community spread during an organizational meeting on January 4. Attendance will be limited to allow for social distancing.

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