Overflowing crowds are expected for a Clark County School Board meeting on Wednesday to consider whether to impose COVID-19 vaccinations on employees.
The school board may take action at a special 5 p.m. meeting at the Clark County Government Center.
There is no proposed timeline for when a requirement for Clark County School District workers could come into effect. If approved, the warrant would allow for medical and religious exemptions.
About 25,000 of the district’s roughly 42,000 employees – nearly 60% – have already uploaded a completed COVID-19 vaccination card to emocha Health, the district said last week. Those who have not done so must undergo weekly tests.
The district called a vaccination mandate a “responsible and sensible course of action that we have seen many other government agencies, businesses, institutions and organizations pursue” in a statement Friday and said it was important to protect students. under 12 who are not eligible. get vaccinated and keep school buildings open for in-person classes.
As of Tuesday, the district had reported 1,345 cases of COVID-19 among employees and students in August.
The Education Support Employees Association said in a Twitter post Monday that it had asked to negotiate with the school district over any testing or vaccination proposals, “which includes demanding that all salaries and benefits stay in. place as part of any approved testing and / or immunization policy.
“Entering our second full school year in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific evidence shows us that COVID-19 vaccines, combined with other safety measures, such as rigorous testing, are the most powerful weapon. powerful force we have against the pandemic, ”the union said. . “In addition to vaccinations, such testing accommodation for those who cannot be vaccinated is appropriate, responsible and necessary to ensure that our schools can stay open and our students stay safe. “
Duel of online petitions
Two Change.org petitions are circulating regarding the school district’s proposed immunization mandate – one opposed and one in favor.
Natalie Larson, mother of three school district students, created the petition titled “Freedom of Medical Choice for Clark County School District Employees,” which opposes the measure.
As of Tuesday morning, 7,755 people signed it. It is addressed to Superintendent Jesus Jara and School Board President Linda Cavazos.
Larson, who started the petition on Saturday, said she attended last week’s school board meeting in person and was overwhelmed by the number of voters whose concerns were being dismissed.
The reasoning behind starting a petition: “I just don’t want to be co-parenting with CCSD,” she said.
Medical mandates have no place in a free society, Larson said, noting that medicine is never a one-size-fits-all solution.
If no one supports the school workers, the district will lose a lot of extraordinary workers, Larson said. “A lot of them are ready to quit their jobs and their students because of it, and it’s absolutely tragic for me.”
Larson said a secondary fear is that if someone doesn’t draw the line here, she is concerned that a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for students may arrive in the future.
She said she was not pro-vaccination or anti-vaccination, or pro-mask or anti-mask. “I just want the freedom of choice.”
Larson said she signed up to speak during a public comment period at Wednesday’s school board meeting. She plans to bring a printed copy of the petition with signatures and comments to give to Jara and the trustees.
The petition refers to the Nuremberg Code, a document drafted in 1947 by American judges sitting on trial against Nazi doctors accused of carrying out notorious medical experiments on the man in concentration camps. Among other things, it states that people should not be subjected to medical experiments without voluntary consent.
“Public policy further requires that unconstrained consent be required,” according to the petition.
The clear political choice to protect a person’s right to choose “is further supported by the fact that it is not yet known whether these are really safe and effective,” the petition says, referring to COVID vaccines -19.
National health and legal experts have said the Nuremberg Code is not applicable to COVID-19 vaccines, which have been the subject of clinical trials where participants have given consent and obtained clearance to emergency use by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
The Pfizer vaccine obtained full authorization last week for those 16 and over, and remains under emergency authorization for 12-15 year olds and for the third dose for the immunocompromised.
The rival petition, titled “CCSD COVID Vaccination Should be Mandatory,” circulates in favor of a vaccination mandate.
Tuesday morning, 380 people had signed it. It is directed to Jara, Nevada Superintendent of Public Education Jhone Ebert, Governor Steve Sisolak, Southern Nevada Health District, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kindergarten teacher Angie Sullivan, who is also a member of the Clark County Education Association’s social justice caucus, created the petition about two weeks ago.
Sullivan said it’s important to get the vaccine not just for yourself, but for your community. “He must be mandated. “
Sullivan spoke about the COVID-19 vaccine, noting that teachers are already required to receive other vaccines. “For me, it doesn’t matter,” she added.
The teacher had COVID-19 and still had symptoms a year later, but noted that some of those symptoms were gone after being vaccinated.
“For a lot of people, it’s not the flu,” Sullivan said. “It’s something you don’t want to get.”
Other employee opinions
Other CCSD staff spoke out for and against a mandate to vaccinate for at least a week at the board meeting, before the district revealed it would seek board approval for one. such measure. Others quietly made their views heard ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.
Among them, Robert Cowles, a high school social studies teacher, said he thought a vaccination warrant was the wrong approach. He emailed Jara and the school counselors over the weekend, suggesting they should push for vaccination instead.
This approach should have started this summer once it became apparent that the delta variant was the most contagious and dominant COVID-19 strain, he said.
For example, he said, the district could use a ‘carrot and stick’ approach where anyone vaccinated by the end of September would receive $ 1,000 and those who were not would be charged $ 100. additional per month for their health costs.
Cowles cited already existing financial problems with THT Health, the district’s teachers’ health insurance plan, noting that it is expensive if someone becomes seriously ill with COVID-19 and needs to be hospitalized.
Cowles said he was pro-vaccination and received his first injection of COVID-19 in January and the second in February.
But he said he understands people who don’t want to be vaccinated. “I don’t agree, but I understand their position,” he said.
He said he didn’t like the idea of the school district forcing people to get vaccinated in order to keep their jobs or have to find another job.
The school district, he said, “cannot afford to lose teachers who are going to be misrepresented (about) the immunization mandate because they are fiercely opposed to vaccines or are fiercely opposed to vaccines. that vaccine or whatever, “he said.” We’re so short-handed that we can’t afford to lose anyone. “
As of Tuesday, the school district’s recruiting website listed 819 licensed / certified positions, as well as open staff positions.
Due to understaffing, Cowles sold his two prep periods and is teaching eight classes a day this school year.
Mandates in schools
The Clark County School District is not the first in Nevada to move forward with reviewing a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for educational institutions.
The Nevada System of Higher Education plans to ask its board of directors at a September 10 meeting to consider drafting policy changes that would require employees to be fully immunized by December 1.
NSHE employees, who are among the state’s approximately 27,000 employees, are currently required to be fully immunized or be tested weekly.
Last month, the state health council voted to require all students in public colleges and universities to be fully immunized in order to register for the 2022 spring semester. Medical and religious exemptions are allowed.
Some of the nation’s largest public school districts have also recently announced similar mandates, including the New York City Department of Education, Chicago Public Schools and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
California requires employees in public and private preschools through grade 12 to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing. Washington state also recently announced a vaccination requirement for employees of public and private schools.
The Council of the Great City Schools, a Washington, DC-based advocacy organization that represents about 75 of the nation’s largest school districts, has an online tracking tool on the Week of the Week website. education indicating how many districts require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, as well as COVID-19 tests and face masks.
On Tuesday, it showed that 34% of the organization’s member districts have a staff vaccination mandate, which includes districts that require either vaccination or a COVID test.
In total, 93% of districts have a mask mandate and 69% have a COVID-19 test, mandatory or optional.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.