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JCPS Board votes to require vaccines or weekly testing for all district employees

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 8:28 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2021 at 11:29 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - JCPS Board members voted 6-1 on new guidance requiring mandatory COVID vaccines or weekly testing for staff members.

The vote will affect 18,000 JCPS employees, who must submit their decision on vaccine or testing compliance no later than October 14, 2021.

The new guidance will require vaccines for all JCPS employees, subject to accommodation provisions of Title VII and the ADA. Those not vaccinated would be required to undergo COVID testing at a minimum of once every other week.

District 2 board member Chris Kolb was the sole opposing vote on the motion to pass. Kolb’s argument was for a motion that would require all employees to be fully vaccinated, effectively taking away any testing options.

Kolb’s motion for the stricter requirement was declined as board members cited a staffing shortage within the district.

Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio also presented new opportunities introduced in Senate Bill 1 that would allow retired teachers to return to employment with pay in addition to drawing from current Kentucky Teacher Retirement System benefits.

In addition, federal pandemic funds could be used to hire retired teachers to fill shortages in the district.

Pollio said he intends to declare a critical shortage.

The “New Way Forward” plan would also work on a Test to Stay Proposal that would keep more students in class and out of quarantine, and would keep the current mask mandate in place.

Pollio also looked to receive authorization allowing temporary assigning students to remote instructions, which would be no longer than necessary to alleviate student and staff absences due to COVID, and would be provided to particular schools, grades, classrooms or students.

JCPS’s revisions to its school operations plan will be sent off to the Kentucky Department of Education for approval.

A little more than an hour before Tuesday’s meeting, parents lined up to pick up their children at the end of the day at Jacob Elementary School. There was no shortage of opinions about vaccines and school employees.

“Anybody who’s around children should be vaccinated because the kids can’t take the vaccine,” Dan Walters said. “It’s my opinion it ought to be mandatory.”

Walters was one parent waiting in a long line of cars waiting for school to let out.

On Tuesday, numbers posted on the JCPS COVID dashboard revealed Jacob Elementary had the highest number of COVID-positive staff members in the entire district. It tied with Southern High School with nine positive staff members.

However, opinions at Jacobs on vaccine requirements was mixed.

“It’s a freedom of choice, you know you have a choice to get a flu shot every year or not,” Randy Reese said. “Yes, I think the vaccine is going to help reduce your affects if you have COVID. But I don’t think it should be mandatory. It should be a personal choice.”

“I think everybody should be vaccinated,” Denise Ford said. “Kids can bring it home or they can get sick their selves so of course I think everybody should be vaccinated.”

“The kids, they’re coming in and out,” Tiffany Goatley said. “They could bring it to the teachers or staff and the staff could spread it to others. It just keeps spreading around and around and around. Everybody should be vaccinated that is staffing the schools.”

On Tuesday, JCPS reported 2,866 students and 379 staff members were positive for COVID-19.

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