CINCINNATI — Following the announcement that all personnel working in a Cincinnati Public Schools building must be vaccinated or tested weekly, teachers are submitting vaccine information through an online portal that tracks the district's vaccine status and test results.
During a Monday night board of education meeting, board members said the district believes roughly 70% of staff is already vaccinated, but that's only an estimate. The portal will provide the district with more definitive data on vaccination rates among workers at CPS.
The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers believes more like 90% are already vaccinated.
“With the spread of the delta variant, it’s clear that more must be done to increase vaccination rates in Greater Cincinnati, and among eligible CPS employees and students,” said Julie Sellers, president of CFOT. “We consulted with CPS over the terms of the mandate. The option of weekly testing provides reasonable protections for the small number of staff with medical conditions that make vaccinations risky, or with other reasonably held concerns.”
Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, said other districts across the state are paying close attention to CPS.
“Our stance is that when there is a vaccinate mandate, it should be in conjunction with the union so we can negotiate the implementation and the impact,” said Cropper.
Employees must have their first shot done by Oct. 1 and a second shot "within the appropriate time thereafter." Following that, employees will be required to provide proof of vaccination, or an approved reason for exemption.
“I’m absolutely okay with submitting it,” said Amber Neff. “Whatever keeps our kids safe and keeps us away from remote learning, I think, is the most important thing.”
Not every staff member is fully in agreement with mandating vaccines.
“I believe in health and safety of our kids,” said Gary Favors. “But to mandate something, that’s not the right way, and the district may be in litigation with people filing suits.”
Favors fears it could impact classrooms further if teachers quit. He plans to run for school board to stop it.
The school board was not oblivious to the potential for this mandate to create new job openings in the district, but they determined it was still the best course of action.
"Fingers crossed that we don’t lose anybody,” said Mike Moroski, school board member. "If we do, I am confident that we do fill the seats quickly."
He said CPS has a reputation of being able to hire, filling more than 300 openings this past summer. He argued the bigger impact will be on student's health.
“This vaccination is going to help us to not have to close,” he said.
He said the day after the board unanimously passed the vaccine mandate, districts across the state called him to inquire about doing the same.
“I’ve had school board members from across the Ohio River and the state reach out to me already, whether social media or otherwise, to say, ‘Can I set up a time to talk to you? How the heck did you even get this? We can’t even get people to talk about masks,’” said Moroski.