Education Health

Orange County School Board Softens Vax Mandate / Rutland District Lifts Mask Mandate

An Orange County supervisory union board today rescinded a planned vote proposed requirement to vaccinate all employees for Covid-19.

Instead, the Orange East Supervisory Union board adopted a more lenient vaccine mandate. Taking effect July 1, it would offer a testing option for those with religious or medical exemptions, and a testing requirement for other unvaccinated employees. 

The board held what it billed as an “emergency meeting” at 11 am via Zoom about a proposed mandate. It became clear that most school board members oppose a vaccine mandate forcing teachers to choose between vaccination and employment. 

“My heart says you can’t make other people do things you don’t want them to do,” Angela Colbeth said. 

“I do not feel we are in the position to tell anyone else what to put in their body,” a board member named Allison said. She also expressed concern about the risk of losing valuable staff and volunteers. “What will our students do when the teachers and parents they rely on through the day won’t be there?”

The ‘chat’ portion of the Zoom hearing also reflected an unwillingness to impose vaccination. “What are we teaching our kids when you force people to get vaccinated?” said chat participant ‘Charlie.’ 

Not all members were enthusiastic. “I believe our way back to normalcy involves vaccination,” Danielle Corti of the OOUSD said. Teachers should be vaccinated, she asserted. 

Also, some board members and public watchers expressed concern about a new variant strain of Covid – there’s one in Hong Kong now, a board member said. There was general consensus the supervisory union could revisit the issue as needed.

OESU, with offices in Bradford, is comprised of the following schools: Blue Mountain Union, Bradford Elementary School, Newbury Elementary School, Oxbow High School, Riverbend Career & Tech Center, Thetford Elementary School and Waits River Valley School.

Mask Mandate lifted in Rutland County School District. The Superintendent of the Slate Valley Unified School District has announced masks will no longer be required as of Monday, March 7.

“I will be removing the masking mandate for the Slate Valley Schools, effective March 7th,” Brooke Olsen-Farrell said in a Feb. 15 letter. “That being said, due to federal regulations, masks will still be required on school buses. Certainly, anyone who wishes to continue to wear a mask may do so. We have KN95 masks available for staff and students. We have moved to a time of personal responsibility in the management of this virus. Therefore, the decisions will be left to the discretion of families and individuals for the time being.”

Olson-Farrell listed these reasons for the decision:

  1. Despite our very best efforts, mask compliance is now a daily challenge for staff, administrators, and educators to enforce.
  2. Masks are not being worn by the overwhelming majority of individuals outside of school.
  3. The CDC recommends KN95/N95 masks, and we do not require these in our schools. Therefore if we are not mandating KN95/N95 masks then why would we mandate them at all.
  4. COVID will be with us indefinitely. We can not predict the length, nor intensity, of the virus as it changes throughout the United States or Vermont.
  5. Additionally, our students would benefit socially/emotionally from mask removal. Some of our students have never been in school with the ability to see their classmates’ faces, or their teachers.

Guy Page

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