By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Hays USD 489 school board approved an Early Childhood Connections policy that will require all employees and volunteers in the program to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
ECC receives federal funds and falls under the federal mandate to have employees vaccinated. The vaccination requirement applies only to Early Childhood Connections.
Donna Hudson-Hamilton, ECC director, told the school board Monday, the Head Start program would be in danger of losing funds if it did not comply with the federal mandate.
The policy will affect about 90 people. About 54 percent of the staff has been vaccinated.
"We really want to move on this and get it out," Hudson-Hamilton said of the policy. "This has weighed on them tremendously. We want something for them to review and fall back on."
Hudson-Hamilton said litigation surrounding the federal vaccine mandate is ongoing across the country, and the outcome of that litigation could affect the ECC policy moving forward.
However, she said she felt the ECC staff needed guidance.
The policy requires all staff, including teachers, program staff, bus drivers, administrative staff, substitute teachers, school nurses, temporary staff and volunteers to be vaccinated.
Those staff and volunteers will be required to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 1. This means two weeks after the second shot of a Moderna or Pfzier vaccine or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Proof of vaccination will be required.
Exemptions will be allowed for religious or medical reasons. Individuals will not be able to test in lieu of vaccination.
Hudson-Hamilton said the ECC does not intend to require regular testing, masks or other mitigation measures for those who receive exemptions unless they are otherwise required in the community or district-wide.
Failure to receive a vaccination or exemption can lead to disciplinary action up to dismissal, according to the policy.
Employees who know they won't comply are urged to notify they're superiors. Reassignment may be an option.
"We don’t want to risk losing federal dollars," Tammy Wellbrock, board president, said. "We don’t have money to do this program ..."
The policy passed on a vote of 6-1 with Allen Park voting against.
Newly elected school board member Curt Vajnar was appointed at the beginning of the meeting to fill a vacant seat. He voted to approve the policy.