LANCASTER, Pa. (WTHM) — All across the country, school board meetings have become emotional battlegrounds. From shouting matches to protests, board members have seen it all.
“When I talk to board members from other districts, we all say the same thing. It’s not what we signed up for,” Dr. Edith Gallagher, President of the Board of Directors at the School District of Lancaster, said.
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The school district voted unanimously to enact a COVID-19 testing mandate on Tuesday night. The only way to avoid the testing is to be completely vaccinated.
Lancaster County school boards have faced some tough decisions in recent weeks, and the vote on Tuesday was no different. The decision will likely affect 1, 600 staff members – a decision the board is not taking lightly.
“So many things out there with COVID and it’s changing so quickly and school districts are big beasts that don’t change quickly, so it’s been hard for us,” Dr. Edith Gallagher said
While President Biden’s vaccine mandate technically doesn’t apply to public institutions, the School District of Lancaster is trying to stick to the spirit of that mandate.
“We know that mandates are not palatable at this time in history and we’re trying not to go down that road, but our priority is to keep our classrooms safe,” Dr. Gallagher said.
The School District of Lancaster says this latest vote is not about a vaccine mandate.
“I believe everyone believes this is the right course. Of course, we’ve had two weeks to discuss things with our constituents and to think about it more carefully so my colleagues may show up with more questions,” Dr. Gallagher said.
The latest numbers from PA State Education Association show that between 85 to 90 percent of school staff members in Pennsylvania are already vaccinated.
“What we found from our members was that they’re willing to take whatever steps to that need to taken to keep the community safe so that we don’t have situations where students have to quarantine or teachers have to quarantine or schools have to shut down temporarily,” Chris Lilienthal, assistant director of Communications at the PA State Education Association, said.