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CPS Board To Vote On Mandating COVID-19 Vaccines For Employees Sep. 13

CPS' Policy and Equity Committee elected to present a COVID-19 vaccine policy for employees for a vote on Sep. 13 by the Board of Education.
Cory Sharber
CPS' Policy and Equity Committee elected to present a COVID-19 vaccine policy for employees for a vote on Sep. 13 by the Board of Education.

Cincinnati Public Schools board members will vote on a COVID-19 vaccine policy for employees Sept. 13. According to committee chair Mike Moroski, the deadline for employees to receive their first dose would be Oct. 1.

This was decided Thursday during a Policy and Equity Committee meeting. In July, a House Bill was signed into law that doesn't allow for mandates of vaccines not approved by the FDA. On Monday, the Pfizer vaccine received full approval.

That might cause some issues down the road if CPS' proposed vaccine mandate passes. Legal counsel Dan Hoying said there is the possibility employees could receive vaccines apart from Pfizer. According to counsel's standpoint, once a vaccine is approved by the FDA, employees could then receive any COVID-19 vaccine.

"In other words, we think the FDA's approval of at least one vaccine moots out that legislation altogether," Hoying said. "That's consistent with what Gov. DeWine said when he signed the legislation. He said he believed that a vaccine would be approved before the effective date of the legislation, thus mooting out that legislation."

The legislation goes into effect Oct. 13.

Board member Eve Bolton voiced concerns about employees possibly quitting over the mandate if they are against receiving the vaccine. However, she believes it would reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading throughout the district.

"The reality for me is, the best way to keep the schools open and the children safe and the staff working is to have the required vaccinations," Bolton said.

Last November, CPS had to move to remote learning due to a lack of staff.

Committee chair Mike Moroski isn't just only concerned about kids and families getting sick, but for the district having to go virtual again.

"We've invested heavily in our virtual and digital options," Moroski said. "In our last budget, our Cincinnati Digital Academy is one of our biggest high schools now. People want to be [there], it's a great school. That being said, for some learners that's better but for a majority of learners, particularly the little ones, being in school is important."

The matter was first brought up during a Policy and Equity Committee meeting May 27. Pros included providing a healthy environment and reducing quarantines; cons include possible issues with the union and possible loss of staff.

The policy would require all district employees and co-located partners to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. "Co-located partners" include health partners, resource coordinators, school resource officers and other partners working out of a district building.

All employees would be required to receive vaccinations unless a religious or medical exemption is claimed. Under the policy, political beliefs are not a sufficient reason to request accommodations. All employee vaccine information will be treated as confidential.

In June, board members elected not to vote on the policy at the time. Since May 2020, nearly 2,000 CPS students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Assistant Superintendent Susan Bunte says 111 students and 52 staff members throughout Cincinnati Public Schools have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 1. School started on Aug. 19.

More than 70% of staff have received the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, which is currently only approved for age 12 and up.

This story has been updated.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.