District No. 2904 School board adopts pandemic policy

Editor’s Note: It was announced Wednesday Jan. 12, that Tracy Area Public Schools will shift to distance learning from Jan. 6-Jan. 10, with students returning on Tuesday, Jan. 11.

By Per Peterson

On the day when it was announced there were 15 new COVID-19 cases within Tracy Area Public Schools, the District No. 2904 School Board unanimously voted to approve a new Minnesota School Boards Association policy that will require unvaccinated staff to wear a mask or shield while in the school buildings as of Jan. 10.

“This was not a policy that was brought forward by the Tracy Area Public Schools Board or the administration,” TAPS Supt. Chad Anderson said at Monday’s meeting. “This is a Minnesota OSHA requirement; OSHA put this in place, and it is in place right now.”

Anderson said the school district had two choices moving forward: a mandatory vaccination policy — which he did not recommend — or a mandatory vaccination or testing and masking policy, which was ultimately approved Monday.

Under the approved option, employees may test and mask, even if they do not have a disability or religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated. The policy affects businesses with 100 or more employees. For the district — which employees about 170 people — that includes teachers, paraprofessionals, cooks, secretaries, custodians, substitute teachers, administrators and coaches. It does not include independent contractors, such as 4.0 bus drivers, which already does fall under the mandate since it has more than 100 employees. Volunteers and those who don’t receive a W-2 tax form are not included in the mandate, nor are students and visitors to the buildings.

Under the mandate, any employee who chooses to be vaccinated against COVID-19 must be fully vaccinated no later than Jan. 10. Any employee not fully vaccinated by then will be subject to the regular testing and face covering requirements of this policy until fully vaccinated; a face shield is not considered a “face covering.” Anyone wanting to use a shield must apply for a medical or religious accommodation.

COVID-19 testing under the new policy will begin the week of Feb. 7, and Anderson recommended to the board that the district pay for the tests.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.