Despite board approval, CCSD not mandating COVID-19 vaccine for teachers, staff

The district says a mandate has not been necessary.
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 11:24 AM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Despite the Clark County School District Board of Trustees approving mandatory COVID-19 vaccines in September 2021 for teachers and staff, the school district will not move forward with a vaccine mandate.

The CCSD Board approved the vaccine mandate in the waning hours of a meeting on Sept. 2, 2021, in a 5-1 vote. Trustees Lola Brooks, Evelyn Garcia Morales, Linda Cavazos, Lisa Guzman and Irene Cepeda voted for the motion. Trustee Danielle Ford voted against and Katie Williams was not present for the vote.

Now, more than ten months later, the school district said the vaccine mandate isn’t necessary.

“Last school year, the Board of School Trustees directed staff to develop a vaccine mandate. As the District continues monitoring COVID-19 levels and working with the bargaining units, the development of a mandate has not been necessary,” a CCSD spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to encourage community members to use proven mitigation strategies to protect themselves.”

At the September meeting, Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara said the COVID-19 vaccination policy was needed to help keep students in classrooms.

“To me, to our children, when I speak to them and I hear them, and they say do whatever it takes as superintendent to keep us in school, and I think this is one of the mitigation efforts that we are bringing forward,” Jara said during the meeting.

The approval of the mandate was met with swift criticism, including the CCSD Board president receiving death threats for voting for the measure. A little over a month after the vote, Jara was ousted by the board and was reinstated in early December 2021.

The decision not to follow through with the decision is now leaving CCSD teachers like Ryan Fromoltz with little choice but to speculate.

“I think Jara wanted just the authority to do it, but he never followed through on it,” Fromoltz told FOX5 Monday. “At this point, the teachers who would get the vaccine, already have it, and those who haven’t, won’t get it.”

When the mandate was first approved last year, parents were seemingly split about the decision.

“People that are vaccinated-- gives me a little bit more comfort. Being vaccinated just lessens the chances of getting the virus,” said Jennifer Gardner, a Gibson Elementary parent.

With others, the approval of the mandate was met with swift criticism.

“Just because you have it it, doesn’t mean that you can’t get COVID,” said Kat Lounsbury, a CCSD parent.

During the mandate’s approval in September of 2021, some longtime teachers even threatened to quit.

“The vaccine is not something I’m willing to put into my body right now,” CCSD teacher Meja Hammons told FOX5 in September. “And I don’t feel like they have the right to make me do that.”

The vote to greenlight the policy even became the cause of impassioned disruptions in board meetings, as well as protests. However, now that it is seemingly not going to be instituted, Lounsbury said she is relieved.

“I definitely feel like it’s going to open the door for teachers to come back and help out with that staffing shortage,” said Lounsbury.

Fromoltz said the teacher shortage may have been one reason district leaders ultimately decided not to go through with it.

“We have a 1400+ teacher shortage, and that number is going to up even more before school starts,” said Fromoltz.

Fromoltz said he suspects this also has something to do with the fact that just three weeks ago, the Nevada System of Higher Education repealed their staff COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The NSHE Board of Regents decides the policies in each of Nevada’s public colleges and universities.

“I believe that the Board of Regents’ decision to drop the vaccine mandate also played a role in this decision,” said Fromoltz.