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St. Louis Public Schools will require staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19

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Music class

First graders, from left, Idiris Musa, Kanye Simmons and Geremih Parris sing in music class on the first day of school Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, at Patrick Henry Elementary school in St. Louis. Photo by Laurie Skrivan,

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Public Schools has joined a growing number of school districts nationwide that will require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The St. Louis School Board passed the vaccine mandate unanimously at its meeting Tuesday. Staff members must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 or apply for a medical or religious exemption. Those with approved exemptions will be tested for COVID-19 twice a week.

With 3,400 employees, SLPS is one of the largest employers in the city. The policy also applies to vendors in transportation, food services and special education as well as school volunteers.

Anyone who remains unvaccinated and does not have a valid exemption will be subject to unpaid leave or discipline including termination. Leaders of the district's teachers union support the policy and have called for an even stricter mandate that would also include eligible students.

Two of the district's teachers who were unvaccinated recently died of COVID-19, Superintendent Kelvin Adams said Tuesday.

Of the 2,600 SLPS staff members who responded to a recent survey, 86% said they were fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates in individual school buildings range from 90% to 50%, Adams said.

The first case of COVID-19 in an SLPS student this semester was reported Tuesday, one day after schools opened.

Locally, SLPS joins the Ferguson-Florissant School District and Soulard Charter School in requiring staff vaccinations against COVID-19. School districts in Kansas City, Chicago and across California have similar mandates.

Leaders in Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District are reviewing staff vaccination percentages and expect to update their policy in the coming weeks, according to a recent letter from Superintendent Bonita Jamison.

Students and staff at St. Louis University, Washington University, Webster University and the University of Illinois were also required to be vaccinated before returning to campuses this fall.

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