About 2 months in, 74% of employees in Durham Public Schools fully vaccinated

COVID-19 and schools

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – About 74% of employees in Durham Public Schools are fully vaccinated, including 63% of bus drivers.

The district provided the school board with an update on employee vaccinations at Thursday night’s work session. The board approved an employee vaccine mandate in September.

Verifying vaccination status, and employee testing is a new task for the district, and now all large employers under the federal vaccine mandate.

“I would say it’s extremely challenging, but that’s part of what we’re called to do with our job,” said Alvera Lesane, assistant superintendent for Human Resources. “You have to remember that you have this huge responsibility added, but none of the other functions stop, but when you remember the root cause of you doing this action I think that that becomes the driving force.”

The district reports more than 1,400 employees are not vaccinated or did not disclose their vaccination status. They are required to get tested weekly. Lesane said the district has a contract with Mako Medical, who does the PCR testing. She said the testing is paid for by federal grant money so employees don’t pay out of pocket.

102 employees received religious and medical exemptions.

“We had to really keep in mind what a religious exemption request is,” Lesane said. “It’s not based on a particular organized or recognized religion. It is based on- whether or not the employee has- whether or not the requirement conflicts with the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances.”

 Lesane said only a handful of exemptions were medical.

With roughly 75 driver vacancies as of last week, CBS 17 asked if the district thought the mandate would make potential applicants go somewhere else.

“You always have to consider the competition, but I think that in recent actions from our board of education, I think that when you look at our competitive salaries, and how we continue to listen and respond to employees, I think that means a lot to them,” she said.

Lesane said the district does not have a hard deadline for vaccination and will continue to encourage all employees to get vaccinated.

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