City Schools of Decatur plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations for students, staffCertified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Mallory Gray draws up a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during DeKalb Pediatric Center’s vaccine clinic on May 12, 2021. On May 10, 2021 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents age 12 through 15. Photo by Dean Hesse.
This story has been updated.
Decatur, GA — City Schools of Decatur plans to require students and staff members to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The board members voiced their support for the action at the Aug. 24 work session.
The board will vote on the requirement for students at the October regular meeting. Approval of the requirement would make CSD one of the first school districts in the state to require COVID-19 vaccinations.
“I think it’s the safest thing to also mandate vaccines to students, for those who are eligible for the vaccines,” School Board member Jana Johnson-Davis said. “I don’t know why we would treat this any differently than any other vaccine that’s mandated.”
The school district follows the guidance on immunizations from the state Department of Public Health. Currently, COVID-19 is not a required vaccination for students according to DPH, but the district does keep up with that list. School Board member James Herndon said he has no idea why the board wouldn’t add COVID-19 to the list.
The board also agreed that accommodations for students and staff could be made for those who have a medical condition or religious objections.
“I wrote down all employees physically entering the work place should be vaccinated for COVID-19 so long as CSD has complied with reasonable accommodations and provided the vaccine for people,” Herndon said.
School Board member Lewis Jones wondered what those accommodations would be and who would get them, so the district isn’t necessarily providing accommodations for vaccine hesitancy. He agreed that accommodations should be made for medical conditions or, in some cases, religious objections, he said.
“I think that it’ll keep the staff safe, but it would really focus as much on students. I think our students have the right to come to school and know that they’re as safe as we can make them. Part of that is making sure that the teachers are vaccinated,” Jones said.
Board member Heather Tell agreed and said her priority for students is to provide as much in-person learning as possible, and vaccinations are the leading public health prevention strategy for COVID-19. She added that requiring vaccinations would also cut down quarantine time.
“I think it can help keep the kids safe, it will help keep the teachers safe, it will help maximize in-person learning and minimize the quarantining requirement that would happen,” Tell said.
Superintendent Maggie Fehrman will work with the district’s legal counsel to craft both policies. For staff, Fehrman will write an administrative regulation and develop a timeline for implementation. The staff requirement does not require a School Board vote.
“There’s no law that prevents us from requiring staff to be vaccinated,” Fehrman said. “However, if we do want to as a district say yes we will require vaccines against COVID, then we have to also have a process in place for staff who chose or say they don’t want to get vaccinated.”
The board members were supportive of requiring unvaccinated staff members to be tested weekly for COVID-19.
“I also agree that we should require vaccinations for staff but provide that interactive accommodation process for staff that may have a medical condition and can’t get vaccinated, and regular testing,” Fehrman said.
The district will be conducting surveillance testing soon and students and staff will be able to be tested through that program, which would do weekly testing.
For those who are currently vaccinated, the requirement would also apply to booster shots.
City Schools of Decatur is hosting a vaccination event on Thursday, Aug. 26, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Decatur High School, 310 N. McDonough Street.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when the vote on the vaccine mandate will be taken. The story has been updated with the correct information.
Want Decaturish delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our free newsletter by clicking here.