EBR school employees will need to share vaccine information with bosses, all to be tested for COVID weekly

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BATON ROUGE – East Baton Rouge Parish School System employees will need to share their COVID vaccine status with bosses and undergo weekly COVID tests, the school board agreed in a meeting Thursday.

Newly-hired superintendent Sito Narcisse previously asked the board to require proof of a vaccine or have staff take COVID tests. 

"The goal is to continue to provide an environment that is safe, secure and healthy for everyone who walks into our building," Narcisse said Thursday.

Before the board voted, Narcisse reiterated he was not mandating employees get vaccinated. When discussing weekly testing, he made it clear all school system staff members would be subject to getting swabbed.

"Both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can transmit the disease, and many individuals are asymptomatic," Narcisse told board members. "It is our duty to protect the children in our care, while continuing to provide them with the best possible education. I firmly believe this allows us to be better prepared to protect them."

Others quickly shared their concerns. Board member Connie Bernard voiced opposition to any shot requirement, including sharing vaccination status, citing personal choice and privacy. 

"This is Louisiana," Bernard said. "It is one of the greatest states. We may have high COVID rates, but we have lots of constitutional rights and privileges here."

The board approved slight alterations, telling staff to share their vaccine information by September 15 and mandating all employees be tested for the coronavirus, but offering some exemptions for getting swabbed.

Board member Mike Gaudet, offered the substitute motion which was eventually approved 5-3. He wouldn't budge on requiring employees share their vaccination status, but compromised when it came to testing to allow for personal, medical and religious exemptions under state law.

"I would vote for the original motion," Gaudet said. "I do think that that's something we need to do to protect students, but I'm trying not let perfect get in the way of good." 

Other board members and members of the public balked at the idea of allowing some employees to avoid being tested weekly.

"Unless there's a medical reason where you can't put a swab up your nose, you shouldn't be exempt from that," board member Tramelle Howard said. "You should be required to show proof, vaccinated or not, and subject yourself to testing, period. If you want to keep schools open." 

In a meeting on Aug. 5 Narcisse said proof of vaccines should be required for employees or they should have COVID tests weekly. He likened it to an educator's responsibility of keeping children safe.


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