As schools face challenges returning to in-person classroom structures, many North Carolina school districts are implementing immunization mandates for their teachers and staff.
On September 9, United States President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring federal executive employees and government contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. A few weeks later, a number of local school districts adopt similar expectations for their staff.
“We have to care about our staff and we have to encourage them to be protected because yes, if you have the vaccine it does not mean that you cannot be infected,” said Frederick Ravin III, member of the Durham Public Schools Board. of Education. . â€œWe understand that, but it can help prevent contracting COVID and it can also help fight serious illness, fight death. ”
The board asked staff members to present a plan for implementing a faculty immunization mandate at their board meeting on September 23. This request follows the mandate to vaccinate general employees which was approved by the Board of Directors at its meeting on September 9.
Earlier at the September 23 meeting, the board voted unanimously in favor of a mask mandate proposed by DPS Superintendent Pascal Mubenga.
â€œOur board is absolutely committed to keeping all of our students and staff safe, and they see immunization as the way forward,â€ said Chip Sudderth, communications director for Durham Public Schools.
As of September 23, 57.3% of all employees at Durham public schools were vaccinated. According to Alvera Lesane, assistant superintendent of human resources at DPS, protecting the health of students and staff is as important as minimizing turnover due to new mandates.
â€œWe want to make sure that we take an approach that balances the incredible security we need to provide in our environment and make sure that we don’t have any negative impact on our recruitment and retention efforts,â€ Lesane said.
Lesane recommended to the board that unvaccinated employees be required to be tested for COVID-19 every week.
â€œWe’re not trying to force people to do something they don’t want to do with their bodies,â€ Ravin III said. “But I think it’s our responsibility to encourage everyone to protect themselves and to help protect everyone around them.”
The DPS Education Council is also considering student vaccination rates. They hope to collect data on the number of pupils currently vaccinated and on the number of families with pupils aged 5 to 12 who will have their children vaccinated after approval.
The board discussed incentive strategies to encourage high school students, especially those who participate in high-risk extracurricular activities, to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
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Orange County schools decided in late August that all school staff should be fully immunized by September 23. The move followed full FDA approval of the Pfizer mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Teachers and unvaccinated employees who do not have a medical or religious exemption will not be eligible for employment in the school district after September 23.
Despite their mandate for employees, Orange County does not require vaccinations for students involved in high-risk sports or extracurricular activities. Instead, these students should participate in COVID-19 testing twice a week.
In a unanimous vote on September 2, the City of Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board of Schools adopted a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all employees. CHCCS staff have until Oct. 31 to get vaccinated, although Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County school boards have yet to require students to be vaccinated.
Kathryn Thomas is a sophomore student at Trinity and associate editor of The Chronicle’s 117th volume.