AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora Public Schools (APS) superintendent said the school district will require all staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before the start of the 2021-2022 school year in August.
Superintendent D. Rico Munn explained the reasoning behind the requirement in a letter.
"This action is in accord with our belief that the science around COVID-19 and the vaccines is clear and compelling, is in alignment with the guidance received from federal, state, and local public health authorities and supports our goal of returning to full in-person working and learning as soon as possible — and to the fullest extent possible," he wrote.
All staff must get the vaccination before the 2021-2022 school year begins in August, the letter reads.
Permitted exemptions — medical and religious — under state and federal law will be allowed for staff once the requirement is in place, Munn said.
Bruce Wilcox, the president of the Aurora Education Association, said he’s already fielding questions from members about the policy.
"We have reached out this morning to our legal folks to say what are their rights and what are their abilities to file for exemptions," Wilcox said.
Civil rights attorney, Iris Halpern, said employers can mandate vaccinations.
"You’ve always been allowed as an employer to mandate vaccinations. You do have to do an individualized assessment when an employee comes forward and says, 'Hey, I have an underlying health condition that prevents me from being vaccinated,' or, 'I have a sincerely-held religious belief,'" said Halpern.
Munn said APS wanted to share this information early so staff members have time to make arrangements to get the vaccine before the start of school.
"We’re a learning institution, we believe in the science and we believe the science is clear and compelling at this point," Munn said.
APS is still developing its plans to implement this new policy, Munn said. The plan does not require students to get the vaccine.
"We’re going to have students back in person, but we know whatever barriers we can take down to maximize that environment are going to be critically important that we take advantage of," Munn said.
Click here to read the letter.
The Colorado Education Association released the following statement in response to the district's decision: We believe that it is prudent for districts like Aurora Public Schools take measures to keep our students and educators safe as we plan for the 2021-22 school year. We believe, and have said since the beginning, that a COVID-19 vaccination is just one of many components to safely returning full-time, in-person learning. We also want to ensure that educators and students are given the latitude to work with their districts and that special accommodations can be made if the educator or student cannot receive the vaccine due to medical or religious exemptions.
Most Colorado colleges and universities — including Colorado State University, University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado, and Metropolitan State University of Denver — have recently announced COVID-19 vaccination requirements for both students and staff upon full approval of one or more vaccines by the FDA. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said it is still in the process of determining how to support the implementation of those plans.
As of Wednesday, Denver Public Schools (DPS) said it is not requiring its students or staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccinations are not required by the federal government, but some employers can decide to make it mandatory. According to The Washington Post, just as schools can make vaccinations against measles and the flu, among other diseases, mandatory, they can require a COVID-19 vaccine.
This story will be updated. Denver7 is working to learn more.