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City Schools of Decatur requiring staff to get COVID-19 vaccine booster by Jan. 31

COVID-19 Decatur

City Schools of Decatur requiring staff to get COVID-19 vaccine booster by Jan. 31

Elizabeth Wilson School Support Center, City Schools of Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — City Schools of Decatur will require all fully-vaccinated staff members to get a COVID-19 booster shot by Jan. 31, 2022. Staff members who are not fully vaccinated must receive the booster shot as soon as they are eligible.

“As we prepare to return to in-person learning on January 4, we anticipate a significant impact due to the Omicron variant. To minimize the impact in our schools, we have added the following mitigation strategies to our already rigorous plan,” the district said in an email sent to staff and parents.

At the School Board meeting on Dec. 14, CSD Superintendent Maggie Fehrman announced that 92% of the district’s employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. She implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in September, and the deadline was Oct. 31.

The district created a process for employees to fill out forms and submit their vaccination information. The district also provided 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.

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.

The district is also recommending that all eligible students get vaccinated against COVID-19, including the booster shot for students ages 16 and older if they are eligible.

In August, the School Board considered requiring eligible students to be fully vaccinated, but Fehrman previously announced that the district does not have the authority to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students.

“The authority to mandate vaccines for students is delegated to the Georgia Department of Public Health (GA DPH),” Fehrman said. “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.”

CSD will continue to require individuals to wear masks indoors and outdoors at all district properties. Students will also continue to eat lunch outdoors when the weather permits.

All individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, must complete a COVID-19 rapid test between three and five days after exposure if they were deemed to be a close contact with someone who tested positive.

The email also states that the district plans to restart weekly COVID-19 testing at all facilities, but a date has not been set. The district will implement a test to stay option in January.

Test to stay allows school-associated close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to continue in-person learning during their quarantine period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently added test to stay as an option to maintain a continuity of in-person learning, according to the district.

The option is designed for unvaccinated or partially unvaccinated students and staff who are asymptomatic. The program is also not designed to accommodate high-risk exposures. It is only intended to be used for school-based exposures.

Fully vaccinated individuals who were deemed as a close contact will be able to stay in school, although they must take a rapid COVID-19 test within three to five days after exposure.

Individuals identified as a close contact can continue in-person learning if they get their first COVID-19 test within 48 hours of exposure and test daily after the first test through the fifth day after exposure.

A student or staff member will no longer be considered a close contact or active in the test to stay program if they test negative on or after day five from the tests administered between days two and five. If someone cannot test between days two and five, they will be released from the test to stay program after receiving two negative COVID-19 test results.

If someone tests positive or develops symptoms at any point while participating in the test to stay program, they should immediately isolate and be sent home. Symptomatic individuals will not be able to participate in the program, according to the district.

Parents of students and individual staff members can choose to not participate in the test to stay program and could instead follow the guidance from the CDC regarding COVID-19 exposure. Parents who decide to have their child follow the CDC protocols will be offered virtual learning opportunities.

“Keeping our schools open will take the support of everyone in our CSD community. Getting vaccinated against COVID is the most effective and fastest way we can ensure our students and staff are able to learn and work in a safe environment,” the district said in the email. “The updated mitigation strategies are for all staff and K-12 students. College Heights ECLC and Frasier Center will continue to follow age- and school-specific mitigation strategies.”

CSD will offer expanded COVID-19 testing hours on Jan. 3, 2022. Testing will be available to students and staff from 8 a.m. to noon at the boardroom entrance at the Wilson Center, 125 Electric Ave. To register in advance, click here.

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