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Decatur Superintendent: almost half of CSD staff have fulfilled COVID-19 vaccine mandate

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Decatur Superintendent: almost half of CSD staff have fulfilled COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The Decatur School Board met on Tuesday, Oct. 12, to discuss a policy for naming and renaming schools as well as the accelerating student learning pillar of the district improvement plan. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — Following a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for City Schools of Decatur employees, Superintendent Maggie Fehrman said, at the Oct. 12 School Board meeting, that 462 out 920 employees have completed the process for the vaccination requirement.

CSD has a process employees must complete to fill out forms and upload their vaccination information. Currently, about 50% have completed the process so far.

“But based on the data that’s complete, the number of staff who are fully vaccinated is really high for those who have completed the form, but we have about half who haven’t yet sent it in,” Fehrman said.

Of those who have completed the process, 448 staff members are either fully vaccinated or plan to be by the end of the month. Fehrman set a deadline of Oct. 31 for staff to be fully vaccinated or request an exemption.

Nine employees filed an exemption request, and five responded to the administration saying they do not plan to get vaccinated.

“We are reaching out and making efforts to understand why those individuals [chose not] to get vaccinated to see what supports we can put in place there,” Fehrman said.

The district has to provide a process for accommodations requests to be exempt from the vaccine requirement for disability and religious reasons, according to a memo Fehrman wrote for the Aug. 24 School Board work session.

“Federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations,” the memo states.

For staff members who are granted an exemption and don’t have to get a COVID-19 vaccine, they will be required to take a rapid COVID-19 test daily. Tests will be offered in the school buildings, Fehrman said at the Sept. 14 School Board meeting.

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 previously said.

CSD has 2,730 students who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. About 53% of eligible students are fully vaccinated. The district previously considered a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, however, the school system does not have the authority to do so.

“The authority to mandate vaccines for students is delegated to the Georgia Department of Public Health (GA DPH),” Fehrman previously said in a statement. “At this time, the GA DPH nor the DeKalb Board of Health have listed COVID-19 vaccinations on their list of required vaccinations for students, thus CSD cannot require vaccinations for students in our schools. While the Board and I agree that vaccinations are the best way out of this pandemic, requiring them for students is simply something we cannot do at this time.”

The district also started surveillance testing this week and have only found two positive students.

“I think that’s going well and showing us that the rates of COVID are declining, but we still have to be vigilant about wearing our masks and following the mitigation protocols,” Fehrman said at the Oct. 12 meeting. “What we’ve seen with the Delta variant is this virus can get out of control very quickly, so it’s very important that we maintain a high level of rigorous mitigation in our schools.”

In other business:

— The School Board adopted a policy that sets guidelines for the naming and renaming of school buildings. The policy provides an opportunity to further develop an identity for the school, community, staff and students, according to the agenda packet.

“The City Schools of Decatur Board of Education recognizes that the selection of a name for a school building is a vital component of its public image,” the draft policy states. “The Board will proceed with care and will ensure that the name selected will reflect honorably on the City Schools of Decatur Public Schools and the community.”

When a name change is proposed or a facility needs to be named, the superintendent may appoint a special committee to consider the nominations and make a recommendation to the School Board.

Nominations would be accepted from individuals, organizations or School Board members. Each nomination must include the sponsor’s name and noteworthy reasons to justify the nomination.

School buildings where children attend will be given names of local communities, neighborhoods, streets and landmarks. A recommended name cannot duplicate, cause confusion, or otherwise cause conflict with the names of existing facilities in the district.

Board member Jana Johnson-Davis wondered about the effectiveness of a committee if the school names would be limited to a few criteria, thus providing limited options on what the name could be. Superintendent Maggie Fehrman and School Board Chair Tasha White said the part of the purpose of the committee would be to gather stakeholder input and let the community suggest names so that they feel part of the process.

Johnson-Davis agreed with the criteria laid out in the policy, as the district wants to avoid naming school buildings after people, she said.

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