Clarke Board of Ed turns down mandatory vax policy
Clarke County School District employees won’t be subject to a vaccination mandate, at least not any time soon. Board of Education members voted down a proposal to make the draft policy available for public comment. That step in the process is a necessary one before the policy can be passed, and the Board’s vote at their Thursday night meeting spells the end of the line for the proposal.
Some BOE members expressed reservations and skepticism about the proposal at their work session last week. One major point of friction was the cost. Patricia Yager, who chairs the Board’s Policy Review Committee made adjustments to the draft to address cost issues, including reducing the number of required tests for non-vaccinated employees from two per week to one. Yager told colleagues that the draft policy had been simplified as well.
"So the new policy now is more like a testing mandate," Yager said. "If you let me flip it on its head, a testing mandate that you have to test every week unless you get the vaccine.
Yager also suggested a funding strategy using money already allocated for vaccination incentives.
"The board said it was willing to spend up to $1.2 million to incentivize the vaccines. That was the $500 for every employee," Yager said. "I understand we've spent about $850,000, so there's quite a bit of money left from that original commitment to do testing every week of the 500 to 700 [unvaccinated] staf, enough for the entire spring semester."
It was a very close vote. Four Board members voted to move the policy forward – Greg Davis, Kara Dyckman, Tawana Mattox, and Patricia Yager; while four voted against – Linda Davis, Nicole Hull, Kirrena Gallagher, and Board President LaKeisha Gantt.
One member, Mumbi Anderson, abstained, meaning that the proposal failed to get majority approval. Anderson told her colleagues that she didn’t feel like she had enough information to vote on the proposal.
"I just simply do not have enough information to make a decision about whether this is a sound decision with regard to equity and with regard to whether this is actually going to reduce the burden of COVID in our community," Anderson told her colleagues. "I just do not have the information to make a decision."
Thursday’s vote effectively kills the proposal, although the Board’s rules leave room for it, or a similar proposal, to come back again for consideration at a later date.