CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education Monday evening voted 5-0 to require all staff and faculty working at a district facility to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Those who choose to remain unvaccinated will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test weekly.
The mandate will not apply to volunteers.
The board's Policy and Equity Committee last month advanced the proposal, which would require all district employees to receive one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines, although some yet unspecified exemptions could apply.
The new policy specifically mentions that all district employees and co-located partners, including resource coordinators, school resource officers or other partners working out of district offices, must get the vaccine.
Employees must have their first shot done by Oct. 1 and a second shot "within the appropriate time thereafter." Following that, employees will be required to provide proof of vaccination, or an approved reason for exemption.
"Political beliefs are not a sufficient enough reason to request an accommodation," the policy states, though exemptions will be offered for those with religious or medical constrictions.
New employees hired throughout the 2021-2022 school year will also be required to show proof of vaccination before they start their first day at the district.
Ohio state law prohibits school districts from requiring vaccines that have not gained full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is the only treatment to earn full approval status, although Moderna is in the process of that application. Pfizer, Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be acceptable to meet the district's vaccine mandate, if the board approves the policy Monday.
Interim Superintendent Tianay Amat said having certain exemptions and the weekly testing alternative in place will be important to retain staffing levels.
"The last time we closed schools, it was because of staffing," Amat said at Monday's board meeting. "So, with already being down 10% of our current staff, and then to have a policy that would require people to be vaccinated, I'm going to assume — I'm going to make an educated guess here — that we would lose more employees."
Following Monday's meeting, board member Mike Moroski hinted at what could be the district's next step: requiring age-eligible students to be vaccinated, as well. Currently, the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use in people younger than 18 years old is the Pfizer vaccine, and Pfizer's two-shot regimen only has full FDA approval for people 18 and older.
Moroski said the policy committee would consider such a measure at its Sept. 24 meeting.