The Edina School Board voted Sept. 28 to require all staff members to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.
The requirement was formulated on the basis that vaccinated people are less likely to become infected and develop symptoms of the disease, and substantially less likely to develop severe illness, states a report to the board.
The resolution for the new policy quotes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “COVID-19 vaccination among all eligible students as well as teachers, staff and household members is the most critical strategy to help schools safely resume full operations.”
The board’s approval of the vaccine policy came after the district’s teachers union, Education Minnesota-Edina, provided its blessing. “The EME Governance Board has overwhelmingly voted to support this resolution,” Jason Dockter, union president, said at a Sept. 13 School Board meeting.
The policy, which will require staff members to provide proof they are fully vaccinated by Nov. 15 or submit to regular testing, arrives as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing a similar rule for employers with more than 100 employees.
Boardmember Owen Michaelson provided the lone vote against the vaccine policy. “I am pro vax. I’ve gotten the vax. But I do want to be able to have people have choice,” Michaelson said.
Although he said he was “thrilled” that students are learning in person again, he expressed frustration over the pandemic’s staying power. “Here we are, 18 months, and we’re still doing this,” he said.
But vaccines are the ticket out of the crisis, Dockter observed. “Vaccinations are the tool … to return to that normalcy,” he told the Sun Current prior to the Sept. 28 meeting.
The vaccination policy will send a message beyond the walls of Edina schools, Sarah Prebil, a physician, said during the public comment period of the Sept. 13 meeting.
“Your actions and the policy of this School Board directly affects the surrounding community – not just our (Edina Public Schools) community, not just Edina, but the entire metro and the state of Minnesota,” Prebil said. “Our community is at high risk right now and everything you can do to prevent the transmission of COVID will benefit our community.”
She noted the strain that medical facilities are facing. “I work at a major hospital in Minneapolis and they are delaying elective (surgery) cases starting today,” Prebil said.
Another physician spoke in support of the vaccine policy Sept. 13. “We have people in the emergency rooms who should be in the ICUs, and we have no beds in the state to put them in,” said Abby Metzler, a parent of a student at Creek Valley Elementary.
Metzler, too, spoke of the community-minded message that she believes the vaccine policy sends. “I’m happy to hear that overall, our rates are low in school,” she said. But she continued, “We are part of the community, and I think we need to be doing everything we can to support our community as well.”
The new vaccine policy also acknowledges the potential for booster vaccinations. If recommended by the CDC, all staff will have to provide proof of booster shots by June 15, 2022.