New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Districts seek clarity on Lamont’s order

What happens to school staff who aren’t vaccinated?

- By Christine DeRosa

Beginning Sept. 27, all Connecticu­t state employees and staff at child care facilities and pre-K-12 schools statewide must receive at least one dose of the COVID vaccine or be tested weekly, per the governor’s executive order.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s mandate remains unclear to some school districts along the shoreline, with superinten­dents questionin­g what the outcome will be for staff who do not comply with the order and how it will impact students.

The Board of Education Union Coalition issued a news release last week saying that, while the union is committed to working to decrease the spread of the virus, issues surroundin­g mandated vaccines and testing should be negotiable.

The statement said that educators and support staff rose to the challenge, and gave students a quality education — whether in person or remotely — despite the risks to them and their families.

“The BOE Union Coalition is a strong advocate of doing all we can to protect the safety of members and the public in these unpreceden­ted times,” the statement read.

“We recognize that under state and federal law, employers have the right to create such mandates, subject to the duty to bargain its impact on employees. We will continue to fight for safety in the workplace, and the rights of each and every individual employee,” the coalition said.

Shoreline vaccinatio­n rates vary

Across the shoreline, vaccinatio­n rates are higher than the state average, in most cases. In East Lyme, over 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. Old Saybrook and Guilford have over 80 percent of adults fully vaccinated, while Montville and Bozrah have almost 50 percent.

With the 2021-22 academic year about to begin, many are trying to figure out what’s next.

In East Lyme, Superinten­dent Jeffrey Newton said the district estimates that 80 to 90 percent of staff are vaccinated. He has yet to hear from staff members who have issues with the order, he wrote in an email Tuesday.

Guilford Public Schools estimates that 90 percent of its employees are already vaccinated, according to Superinten­dent Paul Freeman. The district will be following the mandate, and is awaiting clearer guidance on what the testing alternativ­e will look like, he said.

Old Saybrook Superinten­dent Jan Perruccio wrote in an email Tuesday that she did not know how many staff members were vaccinated, but suspected it was a high number.

“We had a clinic right outside our middle school from January until June of this past academic year, and many staff members took advantage of the opportunit­y,” Perruccio wrote, adding she expects to have a full count soon.

She said the district has tried to encourage staff vaccinatio­ns by providing the

service in district and sending staff public service announceme­nts from the state Department of Public Health .

“Old Saybrook has been very supportive of the schools and has been willing to make sacrifices to keep students and staff safe,” Perruccio wrote. “I am grateful to the entire community.”

Montville is also unsure of exactly how many staff members are vaccinated, but has begun the data-gathering process.

Superinten­dent Laurie Pallin wrote in an email that staff members are now submitting their vaccinatio­n cards.

“We have held two very well-attended vaccine clinics in the past month (over 70 community members attended today’s clinic at the high school),” Pallin wrote in an email Tuesday.

“I am currently seeking clarificat­ion of language in the executive order to understand the requiremen­ts around vaccinatio­n v. testing.”

Bozrah’s only school, Fields Memorial School, serves students in pre-K to eighth grade, meaning most students are not eligible to get the vaccine.

Currently, 67 percent of the staff are vaccinated, said Superinten­dent Portia Bonner. The district, like others, is seeking guidance on what the order means.

“As a district, we are really trying to understand the implicatio­ns of what happens to the employee beyond the 9/27 deadline who refuses to comply with the executive order,” Bonner wrote in an email, “how that impacts our students, contractua­l obligation­s and hiring practice.”

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