A policy on vaccinations and testing for staff and volunteers was approved at the Tuesday night, Oct. 12, Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education meeting.
Under the policy approved Tuesday night, staff and on-site volunteers will be “highly encouraged” to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on or before Dec. 3.
The date was extended from a proposal that was approved at an earlier meeting. It was the third reading for the policy. The Dec. 3 date for vaccinations to be on file is a little later than the original proposal.
Those who don’t have proof of full vaccination, which is two shots of Pfizer or Moderna, or one shot of Johnson and Johnson COVID vaccine, on file by Dec. 3 would be required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing, according to the policy.
Those who do not comply with the policy would be subject to the district’s progressive discipline policy, administrators said. It starts with a verbal warning, then goes to a written warning and through more steps, according to the district’s administrator guide and its negotiated agreement.
All staff who provide proof of vaccination would receive five additional sick leave days to their 2021-2022 school year contract under the new policy.
A maximum of 14 sick days would be covered if a staff member is out sick with COVID-19 from a work exposure, according to the new policy.
Testing would be held at each school site and at other sites in the district, according to Stephen Linkous, chief of staff.
He said pilot testing would be held at specific sites prior to the system-wide rollout. That rollout would be the week of Dec. 6.
He said test results should be available within about 24 hours. Student athletes also would be tested weekly under the policy.
The vote was 6-1, with board member Wanda Paige voting no.
Paige said she supported stronger language mandating the COVID vaccinations instead of “highly encouraging” them. It is a public health issue, and staff should be required to get the COVID vaccinations, she believes.
According to Linkous, some principals came forward to request that if a staff member receives five days of sick leave but doesn’t use them, that they could be reimbursed at $750, or $150 a day, if they don’t use the sick days.
The board discussed the idea, but Dr. Stacy Yeager, a board member, said she was concerned about the $1.5 million cost of that part of the program.
She said maybe the district could consider reducing those days from five to two or three days for reimbursement.
Dr. Anna Stubblefield, superintendent, said the only comparable district in the area is Kansas City, Missouri, as other districts have not implemented vaccines and testing or strongly encouraged it.
Dr. Stubblefield said the local Kansas National Education Association shared that other districts across the country were using incentives such as the five days of sick leave.
Paige said the district should be able to be compensated for reimbursements it gives staff for sick days through the federal funding that it has received for COVID.
Dr. Stubblefield said the funding could come from the federal Esser funds from the CARES Act that the district has received, since it is directly related to COVID, and it would not affect the general fund.
However, the board did not act on the idea of reimbursing staff members $750 who did not use their five days of sick leave. They could discuss this idea again at a future meeting, according to board members.
Dr. Stubblefield said the district also is looking at testing student athletes on a regular basis, and a grant is available through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Linkous also reported that the district’s COVID numbers have improved.
There were 25 students who tested positive from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, he said. Six staff members tested positive for the same week.
Year to date, there were 378 students who tested positive, and 89 staff members who tested positive, he said.
In other action, Board President Randy Lopez recused himself and did not vote on a motion to approve a Wyandotte Health Foundation grant agreement. The $125,000 grant is from Wyandotte Health Foundation to the school district to fund a “trauma-sensitive school district.” The grant provides training for district employees for a preventive approach to trauma when a student exhibits emotional distress. Lopez is the vice president for community programs for Wyandotte Health Foundation.