Decatur Superintendent: 88% of employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Hannah Addis draws up a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at DeKalb Pediatric Center on Thursday March 25, 2021. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Decatur, GA — After implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees, City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Maggie Fehrman said, at the Nov. 9 School Board meeting, that 88% of staff is fully vaccinated.
“We’re still chasing down a handful of teachers to turn in their vaccination information,” Fehrman said. “I think that is a great number of our school system. Our student vaccination rates are 57% at the high school who are fully vaccinated, and 33.8% at the middle school. We will be capturing more data as the younger ages are getting vaccinated.”
CSD has 920 employees and 33 were granted exemptions. Although, the district is still waiting for employees to submit their documentation, so the vaccination rate is changing daily, CSD spokesperson Courtney Burnett told Decaturish.
At the Sept. 14 School Board meeting, Fehrman said she was moving ahead with requiring all CSD staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the deadline for the mandate was Oct. 31. At the time, she was planning to require unvaccinated staff who had an exemption to take a rapid COVID-19 test daily. However, the district recently had to suspend its surveillance testing program and does not have COVID-19 tests at the moment.
“Currently, we do not have tests due to supply chain issues,” Burnett said. “We are discussing with the advisory teams the most appropriate testing schedule to implement once we have tests. In addition to testing, unvaccinated staff will have additional mitigation to follow and must attest daily that they have not been exposed to COVID or exhibit symptoms. If they exhibit symptoms, they must present a negative test to return to work.”
Fehrman said at the meeting that the Public Health, Medical and Science COVID-19 Advisory Team suggested daily testing isn’t necessary, and that a decreased amount of testing, like weekly testing, for example, would be appropriate.
Regarding surveillance testing, Fehrman said challenges that arose with the testing lab and company made it impossible for the district to effectively provide weekly COVID-19 testing.
“We’re looking at another company that not only can do the weekly testing, but can also do point of care testing for us… the system, as well as looking at a possibility to tests to stay,” Fehrman said.
If the district did testing to stay, that would be for students who came in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and are not showing symptoms. The student could remain in school if they were tested for COVID-19 every day.
“That is something that I will talk through with my advisory team before we make any changes to our COVID protocols,” Fehrman said.
The district is partnering with DeKalb Pediatrics to host a COVID-19 vaccination event on Nov. 16 at the Dekalb Pediatric Center, 350 Winn Way in Decatur, between 2-6 p.m. Return appointments for the second dose will be on Tuesday, Dec.7 during the same time frame.
“[Decatur Education Foundation] and [Decatur Housing Authority] and city of Decatur have come together to help make sure that we can remove any barriers that there are [for] families who may need to get vaccinations for their students,” Fehrman said. “If they need childcare, if they need transportation, we are working together as a team to provide those supports, so that everyone who wants to go get a vaccine, can go get a vaccine.”
Fehrman added that the COVID-19 advisory team has gotten questions about when the district will begin peeling back mitigation measures. The advisory team’s recommendation is to be cautious about doing so.
“I don’t want to be the first district out there to say, hey, let’s not do this, and then we find out two weeks later that now we’ve spread COVID in our schools,” Fehrman said. “We are going to take a cautious approach when it comes to pulling back mitigation measures.”
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