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Education

Cincinnati Public Schools Becomes First District In Ohio To Mandate COVID-19 Vaccine For Employees

lanier_hardy.jpg
Courtesy of Cincinnati Public Schools
Lanier Hardy, a building engineer at John P. Parker School, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 28, 2021.

The Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education approved a vaccine mandate for employees Monday evening, becoming the first district in Ohio to do so.

The policy will require all district employees and co-located partners to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by Oct. 1 and and a second shot "within the appropriate time thereafter."

"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. Then, they would need to undergo weekly testing.

Under the policy, political beliefs are not a sufficient reason to request accommodations. All employee vaccine information will be treated as confidential.

Interim Superintendent Tianay Amat did raise concerns that the policy could lead to staff leaving the district. She says the district is dealing with a 10% vacancy in staff.

"With already being down 10% of our current staff and then to have a policy that will require people to be vaccinated, I'm going to assume, I'm making an educated guess here, that we will lose more employees," Amat said.

However, Amat noted the district is filling vacancies at a higher rate compared to other years.

Board Vice President Ryan Messer said he couldn't believe they were still talking about people not wanting to get vaccinations despite the number of deaths and the virtual learning experience last year.

"With as many people that have died, the mess we've been through to keep our kids in school, us learning how detrimental it is for the kids not to be at school and then people sign up who say they truly care about kids and they're in this for the kids won't get vaccinated," Messer said. "It's not about you anymore."

It is likely staff will need to receive the two-dose Pfizer vaccine as it is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Gov. Mike DeWine in July signed a bill banning schools and universities from requiring vaccines that are not approved by the FDA. Pfizer's vaccine received that authorization in August.

The matter of a mandate was first brought up during a Policy and Equity Committee meeting May 27. At the time, pros of mandating the vaccine included providing a healthy environment and reducing quarantines; cons included possible issues with the union and possible loss of staff.

It might not be the last vaccine mandate the district could vote on. Board member Mike Moroski asked CPS' legal counsel to draft a vaccine policy for eligible students that could be looked at later this month.

Last November, CPS had to move to remote learning because of a lack of staff due to COVID - staff had either tested positive for the virus themselves or were caring for someone who had it.

In January, the district said it was the first large urban district in Ohio to begin offering the vaccine to staff who wanted it. Now, more than 70% of staff have received the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, which is currently only approved for age 12 and up.

At least 6,000 people are employed in the district, which teaches more than 35,000 students. Since May 2020, nearly 2,500 CPS students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

You can read the full policy as originally presented below.

Board Selects Superintendent Search Firm

CPS' board has selected Alma Advisory Group to assist in the search for a new superintendent.

Nine firms submitted responses for the search. After reviewing the candidates, board representatives met with five organizations.

In a release, the district says Alma Advisory Group had "the most compatible vision, commitment to equity and robust process to assist the board in managing a national superintendent search."

Amat was appointed as interim superintendent in May after Laura Mitchell resigned to become president and CEO of Beech Acres Parenting Center.

This story has been updated.