St. Paul school board to vote on COVID-19 vaccine mandate for educators, staff

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As the start of a new school year lingers, a big decision is about to be made in St. Paul.

This week, St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education heard from teachers, parents and community members about a potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all St. Paul public schools employees.

"I ask that you respect the rights of those who choose not to get the vaccine," one woman said during the open comment portion of the special board meeting on Tuesday.

"It is our most basic job as educators, to keep our children safe, a vaccine requirement will do that," a teacher responded.

"Don’t try to play God, let people weigh their own risks and benefits," added another man.

St. Paul school board members are expected to vote on the mandate Friday morning.

The resolution would require a COVID-19 vaccine for staffers or regular testing for those unable to get it.

"We are completely expecting this resolution to pass tomorrow morning," said Leah VanDassor, president of the St. Paul Federation of Educators.

"We feel like vaccination requirements are one of the best things we can use to keep our members and, our students especially, safe in this situation," she added.

Education Minnesota says, nationally, 86% of educators are vaccinated. President Denise Specht believes that number is higher in Minnesota.

But with a national and state shortage of teachers already, could a vaccine mandate backfire?

"Considering the fact that we have such a high number of educators already vaccinated, I don’t know what kind of impact that will have, but you are absolutely right, we have an educator shortage before COVID-19 and it’s just gotten worse," Specht said.

Education Minnesota said if a district wants to mandate the vaccine, educators should be brought into the conversation and collaborate about how that will work.

Specht says Red Lake Schools just passed a vaccine mandate, as did Intermediate School District 287 in Plymouth.

If approved, it could still be several months before St. Paul educators would be required to get the vaccine.