KCK school district to discuss making COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for teachers, staff

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools board plans to discuss the issue of making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for teachers and staff.

The issue is on the agenda for the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday evening.

Ahead of the meeting there was no specific policy on the table. Earlier discussions looked at the differences between “requiring” vaccinations and “highly encouraging” them.

However, weekly testing for staff that don’t get vaccinated could be a part of either of those plans — and it’s possibly the most complicated aspect to manage.

KCKPS has about 4,100 employees, and about half of them were recently surveyed about vaccines. In that survey, 89% of respondents said they were fully vaccinated while an additional 1% said they were partially vaccinated.

But Stephen Linkous, KCKPS chief of staff, estimated during a Sept. 14 presentation of policy options that about 1,000 employees would need to be tested weekly under any new vaccine policy including testing for people who are unvaccinated.

He said that those tests could be done at district schools — a departure from some other districts which forcing employees to get tested at centralized testing sites.

“We have staff members who take the bus to work so they may not have the opportunity to get to one of these, if we say, specific testing sites,” Linkous said.

If a vaccine mandate passes, the district expects to see an uptick in quarantines at least initially. The district would also need to hire more people to coordinate and manage testing which district leaders say is no small task. Some board members say even contact tracing continues to be a challenge to manage.

“People were saying they weren’t clear in their questioning how tracing this stuff – and they still feel like they’re in jeopardy. I’m just passing it on,” Wanda Kay Paige, KCKPS Board member, said.

Another question also before the school board is if a teacher is unvaccinated and needs to quarantine, would the time-off policy for that person be different than for someone who is vaccinated? In fact, one proposed plan example would give vaccinated staff an additional five days of PTO during the current school year.

Superintendent Dr. Anna Stubblefield first brought up the vaccine mandate earlier this month, pointing to the fact that the Unified Government of Wyandotte County mandated vaccines for employees. Those who aren’t vaccinated are required to be tested weekly.

“It would allow us to have better accountability around those things, Stubblefield said during the meeting on Sept. 7. “The weekly testing would let us know how the virus is spreading.”

Some board members say they support the idea of requiring vaccines in an effort to keep students and staff safe.

Other board members disagreed at that time. While they support requiring either the vaccine or weekly testing, they don’t believe a mandate is the answer.

“My concern is we’ve asked our teachers to do so much, in addition to they’ve worked when the vaccine was not available. They are voluntarily working with and without the vaccine. I’m not in support of mandating a vaccine for our staff. I believe it’s a personal choice,” said Dr. Stacy Yeager, board member.

Monday’s meeting starts at 5 p.m. You can watch the meeting online through the district’s YouTube page.

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