RCSD parents respond to COVID-19 vaccination, testing requirements

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester City School District is the first in our area to require employees to either have a COVID-19 vaccine or be tested weekly.

Officials announced Wednesday, that starting the week of Sept. 6, employees will have to be tested each week if they haven’t shown proof of vaccination. As of June, 65-75% of RCSD staff were vaccinated. 

“We anticipate since June and because of the variant, that more people were likely vaccinated throughout the summer and we expect as a result of this new requirement that more staff will be vaccinated,” said Chris Miller, the Chief of Human Capital at RCSD. 

For those who choose those being tested weekly —  they’ll have to do it outside of work. 

 “We have a partnership with Walgreens which enables staff to go to any Walgreens and to be tested free, the benefit of that is not only that it’s free but the data from their test will be shared with the district confidentially,” Miller said. 

The new mandates have received mixed reaction from parents in the district. 

Leslie Knox has a daughter under the age of 12 who can’t be vaccinated. She says she relies on teachers and staff to keep her daughter safe. 

“You are caring for my child, this is part of caring for my child, I do not want you to catch something from my child that could kill you or give something to my child that could kill or damage her for lifetime.”

Knox also said while this is a step in the right direction, she hopes checking for vaccine status and testing is followed strictly. 

“I want to know that it’s I’m not just relying on people’s goodwill to make this happen, I want to make sure that there’s balances put in place to encourage people to make good choices. So that those who don’t can efficiently be removed, so that they don’t provide they don’t cause a situation that is unsteady, to become worse,” Knox said. 

Some parents think teachers and staff should have more of a say in the guidelines that were made. 

“I really am strong on their choice is their choice. The mandate part is kind of hard. And with such late notice, it’s kind of hard. Again, I’m just… it’s their choice. We can’t take away that choice,” said Ebony Stubbs, whose daughter is in high school. 

Stubbs says she is also worried about whether staff will leave who don’t want to follow the guidelines. 

“It’s gonna hurt our children. Where’s the solid plan for for these guys, scholars, where’s the plan for them? I just really think that’s like a real bad blow to the children,” said Ebony Stubbs, who has a daughter in high school in the district. 

But officials with RCSD say they don’t think staff leaving is going to be a huge issue. 

“I’m not too concerned about staff resigning or choosing to not be tested, given that we have 5,000 staff, certainly we may see a few individuals who decide to do that and we will work with that, but our expectations is that everyone is vaccinated or tested weekly.” Miller said. “I do know that we have a couple individuals on our staff who I think are very uncomfortable and opposed to this, but I think there are few and far between.

If teachers or staff choose not to test and or don’t voluntarily show proof of vaccination, they will not be allowed on district property and will be placed on unpaid leave.

If parents, families, or staff members have questions about the plans for this fall, RCSD is hosting a virtual forum this Saturday. 

More details can be found here. 

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