RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — In-person instruction begins in just a few weeks and with concerns for the Delta variant, teachers are expressing anxiety over their return to campus.

“From school employees to parents who are incredibly concerned about the delta variant and the spike in delta variant,” said Clarissa Riojas, Vice President for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and an educator herself.

Riojas said a lot of the concerns they are receiving from teachers is about the severity and unknown of the virus.

“There’s a lot that we don’t know about the delta variant yet, and then there are a lot of students who are not able to get the vaccine,” said Riojas.  

Right now only children aged 12 and over can receive the vaccine which puts younger children at risk. While it’s unknown when the vaccine will be available for them, Riojas said some teachers including herself, are going to keep protecting themselves and their students.

“I myself will be wearing a mask and I would encourage parents if your child is able to wear a mask I would encourage it,” she added.

For teachers struggling with anxiety or concerns for their return to face-to-face instruction, school districts like McAllen ISD are offering help geared toward the pandemic. 

“A certain type of anxiety and depression, the mental health issues that the pandemic brought up as well as grief and loss of loved ones,” said Evelyn Analiz, Prevention Intervention Specialist at McAllen ISD.  

McAllen ISD is providing programs for teachers and staff as they transition back on campus. Meanwhile, some teachers are asking the state for more support in returning to in-person instruction.

“Governor Greg Abbott has removed some very important safeguards that we were using to protect our students and to protect our school employees,” said Riojas.

Riojas adds they want local control and are urging superintendents from across the state to push back. As stress and anxiety rise, mental health experts urge educators to call their districts for help.