Norfolk school division mandates COVID-19 vaccine or regular testing for staff

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk Public Schools will require all staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly for the virus.

The Norfolk School Board voted unanimously to approve the mandate Wednesday.

Staff will need to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 3. If they aren’t, they’ll be tested weekly.

Norfolk Federation of Teacher’s president Thomas Calhoun sat down with 10 On Your Side the day following the vote. “It was a progressive move by the Norfolk school board,” Calhoun said. “I think it s an absolutely necessary move and it’s not an easy one.”

According to a school division news release, the mandate was approved in response to the “continuing pandemic and surging infections from multiple variations of the virus, including the fast-spreading and highly contagious delta variant.”

The division said exceptions will be made for employees who can’t be vaccinated or tested for “legally held valid reasons based on disability or sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The resolution passed by the board Wednesday also allows the division superintendent to send out a survey to employees to figure out who’s vaccinated, to require proof of vaccination, and to establish a process for the submission of weekly COVID-19 test results, the news release said.

Under the new mandate, the superintendent will create a process for warning and disciplining staff who do not comply and don’t have a legally valid claim for an exemption. A Norfolk school board member says the recommendation could be heard as early as November 3.

Thomas Calhoun, who serves as president of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers, was shocked by the district’s decision.

“It is the school board’s job to keep these students safe and educated, to keep their staff safe and working and what they did tonight they felt like they had to do to make that possible. I applaud them for this decision and I agree with them 100%,” Calhoun told 10 On Your Side.

“Adults make decisions every day and they live with the consequences every day. Fine, I don’t have a problem with that it’s a miracle. Who makes the decision for the children? They can’t make them.”

Calhoun also said that most of the teachers he’s heard from since the vote, are pleased with the decision.

“Every soul that has called in here, is as happy as I am. There is a lot of angst and outright fear in the schools.”

The union president hopes this choice will be the answer to those fears.

10 On Your Side has heard from parents of Norfolk school students who are concerned with the rates of COVID-19. From October 1 to October 7, schools officials have reported 44 COVID-19 cases.

12 of those were from Norview Middle School.

As of Sept. 30, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Hampton, Virginia Beach, and Suffolk were not asking teachers to disclose if they’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. They also weren’t keeping a record of it.

A spokesperson for Newport News Public Schools told 10 On Your Side a survey was sent to all faculty and staff asking them about their vaccination plans. 85% said they had already gotten vaccinated or were planning to.

Some other school divisions have also mandated that all student-athletes and those participating in extracurricular activities get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested weekly. Those divisions include Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

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