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COVID-19 assistance groups turning attention to teachers as school year remains uncertain

Since the end of March, different groups on Facebook came together to help during the pandemic. With the school year looming, those groups are focusing on teachers.

AUSTIN, Texas — Months ago, people across the country and around Austin came together on social media to help people in need as COVID-19 spread and the economy shut down. 

As the school year's uncertainty looms for students, teachers and parents, some of these groups are turning to help teachers get the supplies they need.

Year after year, teachers have to buy some supplies out of pocket. That may include markers, whiteboards or classroom decorations. This year, in addition to the supplies they need if and when students return to the classroom, teachers will need supplies to keep themselves and their students healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Teachers buy almost everything out pocket, everything from tissues to bulletin board decor to snacks to prizes for their prize box," Vi Vu, a special education teacher in a Central Texas school district, said. "Our particular school, we were given the OK to wear scrubs, but that's not being provided by the district or by the State or anything. So that's something we would have to get out of our own pocket."

Vu added it really depends on what school district teachers are in. Different districts may have different rules and regulations, and at the same time, different levels of funding to help teachers with supplies. She said in some cases, districts are providing teachers with face shields, but scrubs are optional.

To assist teachers for the 2020-21 school year, the COVID-19 Community Assist - Austin, TX Facebook group has started organizing donations to teachers from the community. 

"Things like crayons are the last thing on their minds," Kelly Noriega, one of the moderators for the group, said. "They really opened my eyes this week as to what the real needs are."

According to Noriega and Vu, the "real needs" include disinfectant sprays and wipes. 

For Vu, these items are nearly as valuable as gold because of her elementary school-level special education students. She said they just simply tend to put things in their mouths normally, so everything gets cleaned and sanitized thoroughly even outside of a pandemic.

Noriega calls these items "hard-to-finds" for obvious reasons.

"Lysol is still hard to find. Lysol wipes ... hard to find, really hard to find. Lysol laundry sanitizers ... hard to find. Those are the top three," Noriega said. 

If there are other items than cleaning products, she will sometimes outsource the request to a local nonprofit. On Sunday, Noriega created a Facebook post trying to coordinate drop-offs, deliveries and exchanges between teachers and people who have resources to donate.

This is a group I've created where young and healthy people in the Austin community can be found and requested to run errands for those in our community who are more vulnerable. If you are elderly,...

To protect both the teachers and the people who can donate, Noriega made this rule as part of the post: "Credentials are required regardless. No exceptions. Fraud will not be tolerated."

Vu and Noriega both said the uncertainty for the start of the school year makes everything more challenging due to the different beginning dates and different rules. 

However, Noriega added the number one thing that seems to be in demand on social media is masks for teachers and students.

WATCH: COVID-19 assistance groups turning attention to teachers as school year remains uncertain

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