Logistics of getting Illinois teachers vaccinated are unclear
All school employees in Illinois will have to either get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing, but the logistics of how that will happen aren’t clear yet, even with the deadline just a week and a half away.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that all school staff working in preschool through 12th grade schools and in higher education must get their first vaccine shot by Sept. 5, or be tested at least once a week. Higher education students and healthcare workers must also get the vaccine.
For now, there’s been no publicly released guidance as to who will be charged with tracking school staff vaccinations and testing, whether it’s the school district, the county health department or another entity. Many Illinois districts are already offering COVID tests at school, with the assistance of funding from the state.
The Belleville NewsDemocrat reached out on Thursday to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education, St. Clair County Health Department and Madison County Health Department to ask about the logistics of getting school staff vaccinated and tested. IDPH said that ISBE would have more information; none of the others responded.
To her knowledge, East St. Louis School District 189 hadn’t received any guidance yet about the logistics, Director of Communications Sydney Stigge-Kaufman said in an email Thursday.
But with Sept. 5 just around the corner, the district is preparing to start tracking in-house.
“We will communicate internally with our staff on the specifics of how we will verify staff vaccination status and coordinate weekly testing for those who have not been vaccinated,” said Superintendent Art Culver in an email sent to staff and posted on the district’s Facebook page.
In a separate statement, Culver applauded Pritzker’s mandate.
“The health and safety of all our staff and students will be enhanced by this decision,” Culver said in an email statement. “It will also increase the likelihood of us remaining in full in-person instruction. … Hopefully, everyone will support the governor’s decision and not become adversarial because of politics.”
Last year, East St. Louis was one of the most conservative districts in the state when it came to bringing students back for in-person learning. They were also among the first districts in the metro-east to provide an optional vaccine clinic for school staff.