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CPS Board Considers Same Mandate For Students As Given To Staff: Show Proof Of Vaccination Or Submit To Weekly Testing

CPS Policy and Equity Committee, Sept. 24, 2021
Cory Sharber
CPS' Policy and Equity Committee discussed the district's employee COVID-19 vaccine policy and a draft of a student vaccine policy on Sept. 24, 2021 at the Education Center.

On Friday, Cincinnati Public Schools board members raised concerns of employees not submitting proof of COVID-19 vaccinations and addressed a student vaccine policy draft.

During a Policy and Equity Committee meeting, General Counsel Dan Hoying says while more employees are getting vaccinated due to the new policy, some are leaving the district due to it as well. However, roughly 3,000-4,000 employees have yet to submit proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

"Three- to 4,000 employees that haven't responded yet, that is a tremendous amount of people that need to act immediately - need to act today, this weekend - to get those cards uploaded and if not, to start testing immediately because you cannot wait," Hoying said.

Roughly 6,500 people are employed in the district, which teaches more than 35,000 students. Board Member Eve Bolton said many employees weren't aware they had to submit proof of vaccination because they believed it was already on the books.

The district's vaccine policy was approved Sept. 13. Proof of full vaccination or a first dose must be submitted by Oct. 1 and proof of a second dose by Nov. 1. For unvaccinated employees, the first weekly COVID-19 test must be submitted by Oct. 4.

According to the policy, all employees and co-located partners (such as health partners, resource coordinators and others working out of a district building) are required to receive vaccinations unless a religious or medical exemption is claimed. Political beliefs are not a sufficient reason to request accommodations. All employee vaccine information will be treated as confidential.

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 FDA-approved for age 16 and up.

Student Vaccine Policy Draft Concerns

A draft to vaccinate eligible students for COVID-19 was also presented Friday.

According to the draft, "eligible students" means all students able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine that has received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. However, the Pfizer vaccine has only been fully approved for people ages 16 and older. Emergency use approval has been granted for those between the ages of 12-15.

Concerns surrounding the draft include not wanting students to be remote and students leaving the district, as well as who's decision it is to get children vaccinated.

"There are some students for whom it's not really their decision whether to be vaccinated or not, it's their parents' decision," Hoying said.

As stated in the policy draft, all students would need to receive vaccinations unless a religious or medical exemption is claimed. As with the mandate for staff, political beliefs would not a sufficient reason to request accommodations.

Students who are unable or unwilling to receive vaccinations would be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test every seven days. All student vaccine information will be treated as confidential.

The student vaccine policy draft is still under review. The next Policy and Equity Committee meeting is Oct. 28.

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