LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing as a condition of employment starting next month.
The Jefferson County Board of Education voted 6-1 Tuesday on the proposal, which had backing from labor groups representing thousands of workers at Kentucky’s largest school district.
Board member Chris Kolb, who represents District 2, was the lone vote in opposition to the plan. His motion to amend the proposal to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all district employees was not seconded by any of his fellow board members.
JCPS staff will now be required to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing as a condition of employment starting Oct. 14. The plan allows employees to be tested at least once every two weeks to accommodate absences or issues with test collections at schools that may occur during weekly testing windows, Superintendent Marty Pollio said.
JCPS employees will not be able to produce COVID-19 antibody tests demonstrating past infections in lieu of getting vaccinated, said Eva Stone, the district’s health services manager.
Weekly COVID-19 testing is already available at every school in the district, and Pollio said his administration plans to expand such offering to bus compounds and other sites across JCPS.
“Every employee will have access to a test at their worksite every single week,” he said.
However, Kolb said he worried that weekly testing provided “a false sense of security” and suggested mandating vaccinations for JCPS staff. Waiting two weeks to get tested for COVID-19, he said, “is insane.”
“I don't think at this point because of what's transpired in Frankfort that the governor has that authority in Kentucky anymore,” Kolb said. “I could be wrong, so in the absence of the governor having that authority, I feel that it's incumbent on us to implement the Biden's plan as they put it forward.”
But Pollio said he believed some employees would quit if their employment is based on vaccination against COVID-19.
“I think we would have staff that would resign before doing that,” he said.
Kolb also suggested requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for student-athletes while board member James Craig, who represents District 3, said he would like to see participants in school sports and other afterschool activities follow protocols passed for staff Tuesday.
“I'm especially interested in accomplishing that task before winter sports begin,” Craig said. “I think there’s a weak link in the system with some of our indoor activities right now, such as volleyball, that kind of slipped through the cracks as we opened up and were focused on other activities as the school year began.”
Craig said the board was advised by legal counsel that they could not require COVID-19 vaccinations for students.
The board also approved the district's $1.8 billion working budget and set property tax rates at 79.6 cents per $100 of assessed value, down from 80.6 cents per $100 passed last year and challenged in court.
That amounts to $796 in property taxes owed for Jefferson County homes worth $100,000. The new tax is expected to generate $57,038,555 in new tax revenue for a total of $636,688,585 in property tax receipts.
The district expects property tax revenue to grow by 4 percent, the maximum allowed under Kentucky law without triggering a possible recall vote.
JCPS collected most of last year's tax rate as petitioners attempted to mount an electoral challenge, and a decision in Jefferson Circuit Court that nullified the recall petition has been appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Most of the district's budget will be spent in JCPS schools, which will get $1.1 billion this school year.
JCPS also detailed plans for nearly $604 million in this year's spending document.
Most of the $384 million from the third round of stimulus funding, $135.7 million, will be directed toward continuous and extended learning followed by $92 million for workforce and leadership development and $73 million for high-poverty schools, according to board documents. Nearly $23 million of that funding will be spent on pandemic-related technology needs, and $11 million will be directed for social emotional and mental health services.
The first two rounds of stimulus money worth $220 million will support initiatives like summer learning, technology and devices, extended learning before and after school, early childhood, and social emotional and mental health services, according to the budget presentation.
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