LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education will consider a plan Tuesday requiring employees at Kentucky’s largest school district to be fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing.
The proposal, added Monday to the board meeting’s agenda, calls for staff to either receive COVID-19 vaccinations or be tested for the coronavirus weekly as a condition of employment at Jefferson County Public Schools by Oct. 14.
JCPS Communications Manager Mark Hebert said the district will allow a one-week grace period allowing staff to get tested for COVID-19 if they are absent from work and cannot be tested.
JCPS will provide free testing and classroom coverage under the plan, though employees can opt to arrange testing through a licensed medical provider instead. Employees will not be penalized if the district does not provide free testing or classroom coverage, according to the proposal.
The possibility of mandatory vaccinations or regular COVID-19 testing for JCPS employees has been raised by district officials in recent weeks, and unions representing teachers and support personnel have voted to support such initiatives.
“I think our board is leaning that way anyway,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio told reporters Friday, adding that he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see the matter addressed at Tuesday’s board meeting. “Now for us, I think you will probably see vaccination or testing in lieu of vaccination.”
John Stovall, president of Teamsters Local 783, said Monday that his union also supports providing employees the choice between COVID-19 vaccinations or regular testing.
“The employee still has that right, that choice to make their own decision and what they think is best for them and their family,” he said.
Pollio sent a letter to JCPS staff Monday indicating the proposal’s addition to the upcoming board agenda. The plan, he wrote, “is the right thing to do for our co-workers, our kids, and our community.”
“We understand that increasing the number of JCPS employees who are vaccinated will decrease the incidence of COVID-19 transmission in our schools and on our buses,” Pollio wrote. “Research also shows vaccinated individuals are much less likely to require hospitalization if they do contract COVID-19.”
The district will provide employees with more information on how they can inform JCPS of their decisions by Oct. 14, according to Pollio’s letter. He wrote that more than 4,000 employees have signed up for weekly testing already and noted the district will continue providing testing at all JCPS schools and afternoon appointments at 16 middle and high schools every weekday.
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