City Schools of Decatur employees required to be vaccinated by Oct. 31Dr. Maggie Fehrman. Photo by Dean Hesse
Decatur, GA — City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Maggie Fehrman gave an update on COVID-19 during the Sept. 14 School Board meeting. The district is moving ahead with a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for staff and the deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated is Oct. 31.
CSD staff can also complete the exemption process by that date.
“If a staff member successfully completes the exemption process, which means they’re granted an exemption and don’t have to be vaccinated, they will be required to take a rapid COVID test daily,” Fehrman said. “We will offer those tests in our school buildings for those staff.”
Staff members could also get tested at a pharmacy or healthcare facility. The district will not accept home COVID tests.
“If a staff member does get through the exemption process and has to take the test, and they decide to take the rapid COVID test daily at one of our facilities, we will have a cost associated with that,” Fehrman said.
The School Board did not take any formal action regarding a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and plans to vote on the mandate in October.
“For students, this is a much bigger issue than for staff,” Fehrman said. “The board, the superintendent, we all agree that vaccines are the best way to get through this pandemic. However, at this point the board knows that there are some other obstacles to navigate, there’s lots of other things to consider when requiring vaccines for our students in our school buildings.”
Fehrman said that the district has updated its COVID-19 manual regarding how the district responds to a COVID-19 outbreak, which recently happened at Fifth Avenue Upper Elementary School. At the beginning of the school year, the district was operating under previous guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for how to respond to positive cases in schools.
The guidance at the time suggested that it might be necessary to close a school for two to five days to clean, disinfect and complete comprehensive contact tracing, Fehrman said in her weekly Friday Follow-Up newsletter on Sept. 10.
“However, the most recent CDC and DPH guidance offers key factors to consider to determine when to close a classroom or school and recommends that the school or district consult with DPH to determine the best course of action,” Fehrman wrote in the email. “In the case at FAVE, our contact tracing team and school and district leadership reviewed the situation with the DeKalb Board of Health. All evidence suggested that the outbreak was contained to one classroom and that it was not necessary to close the entire school.”
The COVID manual has since been updated to reflect the new guidance from the agencies related to school closure.
The district is still working on implementing surveillance testing and will continue point of care testing, which happens when a student or staff member comes to school and starts showing symptoms. Rapid tests are available in the nurses offices at the schools.
The district is waiting to receive the testing supplies and the plan is to begin testing after fall break.
Currently, about 1,500 students have signed up and consented to be tested.
“We really want to try to see that number get up to about 2,500. We know that if you’re testing about 50% or more of your students on a weekly basis that is really the most beneficial,” Fehrman said.
Fehrman continued to encourage the CSD community to do what they can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“What we are seeing is we can see a little bit of downturn in positive cases in the community, but I can tell you every positive case that shows up in our schools creates a lot of work for our staff to contact trace, it requires students that haven’t been vaccinated to be quarantined,” Fehrman said.
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