October 13, 2021 - 6:30 pm
Updated October 13, 2021 - 8:04 pm
More than a month after the Clark County School Board approved a requirement that employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unions say negotiations over the details haven’t started yet.
The school board voted 5-1 in early September to approve a shot mandate, which would allow for medical and religious exemptions. Trustee Danielle Ford voted “no,” and Trustee Katie Williams wasn’t in attendance.
The meeting drew hundreds of people, and the board heard more than five hours of public comments, overwhelmingly in opposition to the proposal, before voting.
The school board did not place any timeline on when the requirement, which would affect more than 42,000 Clark County School District employees, would take effect. Memorandums of agreement with employee unions are supposed to come back to the school board.
At the time of the vote, about 67 percent of the district’s employees had uploaded a completed COVID-19 vaccination card into an online platform. Now, 70.5 percent are vaccinated, the district said Wednesday.
In a Wednesday statement, the district said each of the five bargaining units representing employees are “being consulted in the development of the vaccination plan and the plan will be made available to the public once it is finalized.”
“CCSD is committed to keeping our schools open for in-person learning and prioritizing the health and safety of our students and staff,” according to the statement. “While the District deployed a multi-layered strategy to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the best medically available mitigation strategy is the vaccine.”
The Clark County Education Association, which represents teachers and other licensed school district employees, said this week that it hasn’t negotiated with the district yet over the vaccination mandate.
“We have not been notified that the district has developed a plan, nor have they reached out to us to sit down with them on the issue, but we are prepared to at any time,” union spokeswoman Joanna Miller said in an email.
The Education Support Employees Association also didn’t have updates about the vaccination mandate.
“The District has put those negotiations on hold until after the contract is settled,” spokesman Alexander Marks said in an email.
The Review-Journal didn’t receive a response from the Police Officers Association of the Clark County School District.
Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional Technical Employees, said Tuesday there haven’t been negotiations regarding the mandate and nothing has been scheduled by the school district.
Around Sept. 13, the district requested information from the union regarding the mandate, Augspurger said, and the union responded in writing Sept. 20.
In the letter to the district, Augspurger wrote that the union believes a “mandatory vaccination requirement should not be instituted at this time.”
In the letter, the union raised concerns about current vacancy rates, plus employees using sick leave, noting “schools are already in crisis.” If the number of vacant jobs continues to increase, it will jeopardize the district’s priority for in-person instruction at some point, the union added.
“It is imperative that no component of the mandate should serve to further exacerbate an already critical staffing shortage,” the letter says.
The union thinks “voluntary vaccination rates can be further improved,” according to the letter, and suggests delaying implementation of a mandate to “provide additional time for voluntary compliance.”
The letter also says the current COVID-19 infection rate is less than 0.8 percent of all students and staff.
The union suggests using mobile vaccination units at schools and central office locations during the workday to “facilitate ease of vaccination” and at “highly attended after school activities and sporting events.”