Orange County school leaders decide not to require vaccinations for students, staff in extracurriculars

Orange County News

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Orange County education leaders Monday voted against requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for students and staff involved in extracurricular activities but will mandate the shot for staff once the vaccines receive FDA approval.

The school board held a special meeting on Monday to update health and safety guidelines.

Initially, Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder said the proposal was part of an effort “to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff while providing in-person learning opportunities.”

The board voted to approve that all Orange County school employees have an initial COVID-19 surveillance test regardless of vaccination status. The board also decided that all employees report their vaccination status to the district, and all unvaccinated employees will be subjected to weekly testing.

School leaders first heard from two doctors about the COVID-19 trends and what the latest research shows.

Several board members expressed concerns about mandating the vaccine for students without full FDA approval. Instead, they voted to require twice-weekly testing for student-athletes and others taking part in extracurricular activities.

“I just have to know that I voted to do as much as we can to protect as many people as possible. And the last thing I want to do is shut buildings down again,” said Hillary MacKenzie, chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Education.

Before the meeting, several dozen parents and students gathered on South Church Street in Hillsborough to oppose mandating the vaccine for student-athletes and coaches.

“My son has played baseball since he was 4 years old, and he does not want to take the vaccine” said parent Sarah Snipes.

The board said the state would pay for weekly testing. The district may need to cover the cost of that additional testing.

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