While questions continue on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements on COVID-19 vaccination and testing for employees, Perham-Dent School District set the required policy on Thursday, Jan. 6.

What are the requirements for school staff members?

The OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard requires employers of 100 or more employees to set a policy for mandatory vaccination, or weekly testing and face coverings in the workplace for employees who are not vaccinated. Perham School District will follow the second option, along with most school districts. The school board policy follows the federal and state OSHA requirements.

The policy, which is set to go into effect as of Jan. 10, does not require staff members to be vaccinated. It includes staff members submitting proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, or staff members who are unvaccinated wearing face coverings in the school buildings.

Weekly testing for unvaccinated staff members would begin on Feb. 9. Staff are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as the policy describes. The booster shot is not required.

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Staff members include full and part-time employees. The policy does not apply to volunteers, independent contractors, employees through a staffing agency or employees who do not work where other co-workers or students are present.

If staff choose to receive the vaccine, proof of partial or full vaccination is required to business and HR manager Kristi Werner, through email, a physical copy or bringing the record to Werner. The vaccination and testing information will follow confidentiality and policy rules. Staff can submit vaccine records after the Jan. 10 deadline to later be considered fully vaccinated.

For the weekly testing, staff are recommended to use a take-home test on Thursdays, return them on Fridays for the district to send in and they should have their results by Sundays. Other testing options can be on-site or off-site third party testing. The test results are to be reported to Werner. If any COVID-19 test result is positive, it would need to be reported to school nurse Sue Seip.

The district received an $80,000 grant to cover COVID-19 testing costs. The tests are about $100 each. The district has tests available and is ordering more. Staff members can also be responsible for the cost depending on their contract.

For exemptions and accommodations, staff can submit a written request to Werner.

What could happen with the policy?

The Jan. 10 timeline became more of a reality over Christmas break, as Superintendent Mitch Anderson noted, after fall communication from the Minnesota School Board Association had been in waiting mode. And the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the requirements on Jan. 7.

“The court may decide to stay, delay, order modifications, or allow the ETS to be implemented. The Court has not stated when its decision will be announced,” the MSBA guidance explains. “This guidance is intended to support Minnesota school districts that choose to prepare now for the possibility that the ETS will be implemented.”

The Supreme Court could issue a stay on the standard, which could change the requirement dates. The school board policy can be changed or not fully implemented.

Throughout the process, Anderson has communicated with staff members about upcoming changes.