The Monona Grove School District will require its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than Dec. 1, after school board members voted 4-1 in favor of a vaccine mandate on Tuesday.
Employees cannot be exempt from the mandate unless they have sincere religious beliefs against vaccinations or they have a disability that prevents them from being vaccinated.
“If someone just says ‘I don’t want to get vaccinated, I don’t trust the FDA,’ that’s not a basis to get out of this policy,” said Brian Goodman, the lawyer that district administration consulted with while drafting the mandate.
Those who are not vaccinated by Dec. 1 and do not fall into the two accommodation categories may be subject to an unpaid leave of absence, termination or other discipline, the district policy states.
Employees who wish to claim accommodation due to a disability or a medical reason must provide proof of that disability to human resources for approval, though Goodman said there is no clerical proof the district can request from employees who claim exemption due to religious reasons.
“With religious beliefs… we can’t require documentation from a cleric or a priest. People’s religious beliefs can be personal and not tied to an organized religion,” Goodman explained. “In that case, we would take any documentation that we do receive, we would review it, we may ask a couple of follow up questions depending on what we get, evaluate if it’s a sincerely held bona fide religious belief, and if that is the case, we could consider accommodations.”
For those whose accommodation is approved by human resources, Goodman said in lieu of vaccination, those employees may be asked to increase their social distancing efforts, submit to weekly COVID-19 testing or wear a mask “even if Dane County lifted the [mask] order.”
Weekly testing would not be used in isolation, Goodman said, but would have to be utilized in conjunction with other prevention strategies.
“The medical community is not universal in that [weekly testing is] good enough… as a stand alone alternative to vaccination,” the legal counsel said. “The only people that would get access to a testing option would do so… only with other steps that may protect public health.”
The policy also says that employees who are not recused from the mandate will be required to provide proof of vaccination to human resources by the first day in December, while employees hired after the mandate goes into effect will have 30 calendar days from their date of hire to receive and provide proof of their full vaccination.
The only board member to vote against the mandate was board Vice President Andrew McKinney, though two board members were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
McKinney said Sept. 8 that he believes the decision on whether to get vaccinated should fall within common sense.
“I think, for me, the thing that we’re missing here is the common sense value. We’re talking about adults here and adults should know when to use their common sense,” he said. “This is a slippery slope for me and… I don’t want to force that.”
Between now and Dec. 1, Superintendent Dan Olson said the district will do its best to make the vaccine “as accessible as possible” to its employees.
“To me, we have two options,” Olson said. “We either… allow employees on school time if need be to [get vaccinated], or we bring it on-site.”
Olson did not indicate specifics on when or where an on-site vaccine clinic would take place.
You can read the district’s full vaccine mandate here: https://go.boarddocs.com/wi/mgsd/Board.nsf/Public.