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Vaccine Mandates Could Attract More Students To Cincinnati Public Schools, CFT President Says


The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers is supportive of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Cincinnati Public Schools employees, but its president says one for students would make the district safer.

Last Friday, CPS board members began discussing a potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students. Concerns surrounding the mandate include not wanting students to be remote and a possible drop in enrollment.

CFT President Julie Sellers says while the district could lose students if a mandate was implemented, it could also stand to gain students.

"If our district is saying we're going to have everybody vaccinated and (wear) a mask, we'll have a safe environment for our employees and students," Sellers said. "I believe that those districts that are surrounding us that don't have a mask policy or a vaccine policy, there will be families in those districts who will say, 'I'm going to send my kids to CPS.' "

The district's employee 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.

Concerns of staff leaving the district were discussed by Interim Superintendent Tianay Amat during that same meeting. Sellers says she's heard from roughly a dozen teachers within the union leaving over the mandate. However, the mandate allows for staff to be unvaccinated if they submit weekly COVID test results.

"There are some really legitimate concerns that some people have, but those concerns are probably a medical reason of why, like they said that they've had really severe allergies to other vaccines," Sellers said. "I understand that, but you still will have to get your testing every week."

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. More than 70% of staff have received the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, which is currently only FDA-approved for age 16 and up.

Currently, nearly 3,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported amongst students and staff within the district. Roughly 1,000 of those cases have been reported during this semester alone.

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