ST. LOUIS – There are growing concerns for schools in Illinois with the governor’s new vaccine mandate now taking effect.
Come Monday, schools may be forced to turn away unvaccinated employees, from teachers to bus drivers.
The new mandate requires that all school employees have proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. Those who won’t get vaccinated need proof of a negative COVID test every week, or else no work.
The mandate has been implemented this week. Those not complying will be off the job starting next week.
It’s a concern in every district, from Belleville Township High School (BTHS) to Granite City Schools.
More than 40% of the district’s staff of about 750 who fall under the mandate in Granite City remain unvaccinated.
“We want to follow the mandate. We want to be compliant,” Superintendent Stephanie Cann said.
“We have every intention of being compliant but it’s difficult with mandates that may or may not be able to be fulfilled quickly.”
“There’s concern. I don’t want anyone to think we’re not taking it seriously and that we’re not worried,” BTHS Superintendent Dr. Brian Mentzer said.
He’s bolstered by a staff that has remained together throughout the Covid crisis. About 86% of the close 600 employees who fall under the mandate in his district are vaccinated.
His district also has COVID testing available for unvaccinated workers.
Elsewhere, testing is a major concern. Drive-thru sites testing sites are far less common than they were before vaccines. Appointments, even prescriptions may be required.
Granite City Schools have a new dashboard for tracking vaccination and testing status. Saliva tests through the University of Illinois “Shield” testing program will be available but not until next month, Cann said.
“We can’t even get our testing started before the mandate begins. That’s been the challenging part of this,” she said.
“My hope is with very few if any exceptions, we will not have any interruptions,” Mentzer said.
“Of course I’m concerned about people who will refuse to get vaccinated and refuse to get tested,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “We don’t want to cause any shortages but we do want to keep everybody safe.”
No employees have refused both vaccination and testing in either the Granite City or Belleville districts, so far.
The superintendents hope that’s still the case Monday.