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Clarke Board of Ed to debate mandatory vax policy


The Clarke County Board of Education is set to debate a proposed vaccine mandate for school district staff at their voting meeting tonight. The proposed policy would require all employees to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, with exceptions for medical and religious reasons. Employees who don’t have the vaccine, for whatever reason, would have to undergo PCR testing once a week and follow social distancing and other public health guidelines.

The proposed vaccine mandate was first aired in public at the Board of Education’s work session last week, where it sparked a sometimes heated discussion among Board members. The friction among the Board was not about the proposed vaccine mandate itself – Board members seemed broadly supportive of the idea – but about the testing component for unvaccinated employees. Board members sparred over the cost and logistics of getting potentially hundreds of employees tested on a weekly basis.

About 700 district employees are not vaccinated, and one Board member pointed out that if that estimated 700 workers didn’t get a vaccine despite incentives, it was unlikely that many would get a vaccine in response to the proposed mandate.

It was unclear at the end of last week’s work session what would happen with the proposed mandate. Some Board members expressed concern that the policy wasn’t ready for consideration, and doubted if the Board’s policy committee could get the language into shape in time for tonight’s meeting. The item is on tonight’s agenda however.

If Board members agree to move ahead with the policy, they won’t vote it into effect tonight. First, they have to agree to post the proposed rule for 30 days of public comment, before a final vote can happen.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 case numbers in the district continue to drop dramatically. The month of September saw 307 cases reported, down from over 500 cases in August. So far in October, only 52 cases have been reported. Around one percent of CCSD students and staff reported a positive case in the last 30 days.

Thursday's meeting of the Clarke County Board of Education begins at 6pm and will be streamed on the district's YouTube channel.

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