ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Public Schools board unanimously approved a vaccine mandate for all teachers and employees at a meeting Tuesday night.
Under the plan, all employees of the district and any volunteers who work with children will be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. The rule allows for exceptions for people with health issues or "sincerely held religious beliefs" that would preclude them from getting the vaccine.
Employees who receive an exemption will be required to be tested twice a week.
“We were working feverishly to make sure every protection is there," Superintendent Kelvin Adams said. "This is a high bar. Some districts are doing this, New York, Chicago as well, because they know the seriousness of not having students engaged in education opportunities. We believe the vaccination policy will give kids and our families maximum assurance that we are doing everything in our power to protect our students.”
The vote came after the leaders of the teachers' union for St. Louis Public Schools asked school board members for a vaccine mandate in school buildings for both teachers and eligible students.
Byron Clemens, a representative of the American Federation of Teachers Local 420, said with the delta, lambda and gamma variants, the pandemic is changing.
“We want to protect our employees,” said Clemens, “but our first mandate is to protect our children, and that’s what we’re going to do. As you all know, if you attend public schools, you have a long list of immunizations, including four polio shots and boosters on a regular basis, starting at age one month. So, we could add this to just one more approved vaccine for doing that.”
Parents have a variety of views on the topic.
“Well, first of all, it’s my body, my choice,” said parent Henry Davis. “A lot of people don’t want to take it, and if they don’t take it, that’s their livelihood, and I don’t think that’s fair.”
Parent Lakeita Gaston Lockhart Facen agreed with the measure.
“I think that’s pretty smart considering the fact that we have new numbers of a different strand of COVID,” said Facen. “We have to get it under control, first and foremost.”
“I don’t like the ‘mandated’ word," Anecia Taliaferro said. "You can’t make me do nothing I don’t want to do.”
George Sells is St. Louis Public Schools communications director.
“Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams has been very clear and said publicly for the last week this is where this is going,” said Sells. “As far as a mandate for teachers, staff and employees. It’s all about keeping kids safe.”
The measure has been presented to the school board, and that group meets Tuesday evening. The measure includes two exemptions: religious objection and a preventative medical condition.