Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

CPS Delays Vote On Vaccine Requirement Policy, Approves Temporary Budget

Ambriehl Crutchfield

Board members at Cincinnati Public Schools decided not to vote on a policy requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for staff members Monday evening. The proposed policy would have applied to all district employees and co-located partners, which include health staff, resource coordinators, school resource officers, and others working out of a district building.

Board members were split on the proposed policy. Vice President Ryan Messer said he believes in choice, but choices could have consequences.

"So if somebody decides they don't want to get a vaccine, I'm good with that," Messer said. "I would like them to sign that they will not charge our insurance the cost associated with them being sick. I think that's very fair. If you're going to take on the responsibility, you have to also take on the consequences."

Board President Carolyn Jones wasn't supportive of the policy addressing concerns about how to enforce the requirements, citing people having to make decisions about their beliefs.

"I think we all want everybody to be safe," Jones said. "I don't believe the pandemic is over and I think our safety precautions, I have a great deal of faith and confidence that we'll keep that up and do what we need to do."

Board members said at least 70% of district staff have received vaccines. The proposal will return to Policy Committee for further discussions.

Staff would have needed to receive at least the first shot of a vaccine no later than August 17. Employees would have been required to provide either proof of vaccination or an approved reasonable accommodation to be exempted. While medical or religious exemptions would be allowed, the policy specifically stated political beliefs would not qualify. (See the full text of the proposal below)

Last week, the Ohio Senate blocked a bill that would ban employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Budget Temporary Appropriations Resolution

Board members also approved a temporary appropriations resolution for the the first 90 days of the 2021-22 Fiscal Year, which runs from September 30 to June 30, 2022.  The temporary measure meets ordinary expenses until no later than October 1.

Messer said while he wants the public to provide input for the budget, the board needs to make a final decision soon so the district has more time to get acquainted with the plan.

"If we just keep sharpening and sharpening and sharpening the pencil, it's going to get down to the eraser and we're not going to have anything else to write with," Messer said. "I think we've got to let people have their say, but I think we need to call the ball."

The budget so far is $703.9 million, with a budget target of $670 million, based off the district's five-year forecast. Last year's budget was $647 million.

Board members brought up concerns earlier this year the budget would be impacted by a drop in enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic. CPS saw a nearly 4% dip in enrollment between October 2019 and March 2021. Earlier this month, CPS Treasurer and CFO Jennifer Wagner said the district is seeing students return for next year, mostly from the preschool and kindergarten grade levels.

The board will adopt final appropriations to the budget on August 23.

Below, you can read Board Policy 5322, which would have required employees in the school district to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

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