The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education voted unanimously last week to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees by Oct. 31.
Since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 23, the board agreed there was no longer a reason to wait to mandate the vaccine.
In an effort to gauge current vaccination numbers, the district sent out a required vaccine attestation survey for CHCCS staff. As of Aug. 31, 77 percent of staff members have completed the survey. Of that 77 percent, 93 percent of staff reported being fully vaccinated.
Although a large percentage of CHCCS staff report being fully vaccinated, Superintendent Nyah Hamlett said the district is committed to overcoming the different barriers CHCCS staff members may have to be vaccinated.
In addition to doing individualized outreach, Hamlett said the district plans to further analyze the survey data.
“We would then break it down by race, break it down by classified and certified staff, and look at where those gaps might lie,” Hamlett said. “(Then) working with our staff to be as flexible as possible while also giving more time to allow folks to get the vaccine if they might be a little bit hesitant.”
The board also moved to host information sessions with medical professionals in the near future and provide additional outreach to those who may be hesitant to receive the vaccine.
“This isn’t something foreign that we have never done before,” board member Mary Ann Wolf said.
CHCCS has enforced vaccine requirements for teachers for years. A health certificate confirming immunizations like tetanus, hepatitis B, MMR and PPV are required in order to work with the district.
Though immunizations are not new to the front end of the hiring process, CHCCS Attorney Kenneth Soo said it is important to consider that a vaccine requirement after hire — especially for staff who have been employed for years — has never been done before.
Wolf said mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for CHCCS staff is a matter of consistency.
“We want to do what’s right for kids, but we also care very deeply about our staff and our educators,” Wolf said. “When you listen to the science, I think that it’s very clear and consistent with what we’ve always done in terms of what vaccines we require in order for people to work with our students.”
CHCCS is working to identify what medical or religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine may be. Hamlett said the district may continue to use other mitigation techniques like masking and testing for those who qualify for exemptions.
“The data shows that for the kids, this is not nearly as deadly and dangerous as it is for the adults,” board member Ashton Powell said. “We put school on hold for the adults, the elderly, the immunocompromised, and the kids need to get back. (Now that) they are back, this is the way to do it safely.”
In the meeting, the board also voted to allot $820,000 to the construction of 25 permanent outdoor shade structures to be used for outdoor eating. Since building these structures takes time, the board voted to provide each principal with $20 per student to address the immediate need for outdoor dining space.
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