Education, Health

City Schools Of Decatur Could Become First Metro Atlanta School District To Require COVID-19 Vaccines

Atlanta Public Schools offered free Pfizer vaccines for eligible students and staff at all middle and high schools once school started.
Atlanta Public Schools offered free Pfizer vaccines for eligible students and staff at all middle and high schools once school started.
Credit Atlanta Public Schools

At a school board meeting Tuesday, the City Schools of Decatur board discussed requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for staff and eligible students. Board members agreed on the proposal presented by Superintendent Maggie Fehrman.

“There’s no law that prevents us from requiring staff to be vaccinated,” Fehrman said after consulting with the district’s legal counsel. “However, if we do want to, as a district, say, ‘Yes, we will require vaccines,’… then we have to also have to have a process in place for staff who choose or say they don’t want to get vaccinated.”

Fehrman said the district would need to allow for accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) considerations. The change doesn’t require a board vote, so the school system says it will begin outlining the accommodations and process for applying them to staff soon.

The district can also require eligible students to get the vaccine, but the board would need to vote on that policy. Fehrman said she’ll consult with the district’s lawyers and draft a policy to present to the board at its September 14 meeting. Fehrman said the district also plans to offer vaccines to make it easy for students and staff to receive them. She said the district may require unvaccinated staff to submit to testing on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Public Schools hasn’t taken that step yet, but will require all employees to get COVID-19 surveillance testing twice a week starting after Labor Day. The district says 81% of staff who responded to a survey say they’re vaccinated. But participation in testing has been low among employees.

APS recently offered free vaccines to eligible students and staff at all middle and high schools once school started. Superintendent Lisa Herring said she wouldn’t rule out mandating vaccines.

“If we find that the [vaccination] numbers have not risen to a point in which we feel that we’ve done enough, then exploration of that would certainly be on the table for us,” she said.

A note of disclosure: The Atlanta Board of Education holds WABE’s broadcast license. 

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