CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Board of Education unanimously voted Monday to require all staff and contractors working at Cincinnati Public Schools sites to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Staff members who choose to remain unvaccinated will need to show a negative-test result on a weekly basis, per the resolution.
Volunteers will not be required to receive the vaccine. However, they will be required to abide by all other district health mandates, including wearing a mask or facial covering indoors.
CPS is the first school district in Ohio to pass such a requirement.
"The vote (Monday) night states that we are committed to doing everything we can to keep our kids in school learning during this pandemic," said Ryan Messer, the board's vice president.
Messer and the four other board members voted to approve the policy.
"We all know the negative repercussions that came with having to go remote. The least we can do is ask the adults, who are in front of our children and supporting them in their education, to take every precaution possible, including getting vaccinated, or to be tested weekly," Messer added.
Employees are required to get a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 1, per the policy. There are a few exemptions available for religious, or medical reasons. "Political beliefs are not a sufficient enough reason to request an accommodation," the document reads.
Starting Oct. 4, employees will need to provide proof of vaccination or begin submitting negative-test results once a week.
Board member Mike Moroski wrote in a Facebook post that district employees who do not comply or submit weekly tests by the deadline will be placed on unpaid administrative leave and "may be subject to additional discipline, up to termination.”
The union representing CPS teachers, the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, tweeted following the meeting that they're in support of the policy. The tweet said, "About 90% of our members have already been vaccinated. The testing option will accommodate those with health or other strongly held beliefs opposing the vaccine."
The new policy specifically mentions all district employees and "co-located partners," that includes positions, like school resource officers and employees of special programs working with CPS students.
State law in Ohio prohibits school districts from requiring vaccines that have not gained full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is the only treatment to earn full-approval status. The Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccinations are still going through the FDA approval process.
"This is a significant policy in that it will help us keep kids and families alive and healthy, and it will help us keep our doors open so we can continue to educate kids," Moroski said.
Moroski said the board's Policy Committee will discuss at its next meeting a new draft policy that would require age-eligible students to be vaccinated. That takes place Friday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m.