PELLA — It was not without some reluctance and much discussion that the Pella School Board narrowly approved a vaccination policy for district employees.

The policy follows the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Nov. announcement that all employers of more than 100 workers must mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or masks and weekly tests for the unvaccinated.

Challenges to the national mandate are set to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States Jan. 7, with a decision expected soon after.

Should the court overrule the existing mandate, the district can change or remove the policy as seen fit.

If the court rules in favor of OSHA’s mandate, all employers must have a policy in place by Jan. 10.

“Unless the supreme court overrules what is existing right now, this will be what we have to comply with or we will be in violation of the law.

Districts and employers that do not comply with the national standard may be subject to heavy fines.

“We aren’t business owners, we are elected officials who have a fiduciary responsibility to not put the district in a world of hurt regarding fines,” Corbin said. “We are dealing with taxpayer money and we take that very seriously.”

The policy passed by board member’s Jan. 6 will require all employees to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

A patient is fully vaccinated two weeks following the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Employees who have not been fully vaccinated will be required to wear face coverings at all times while indoors, in a vehicle or otherwise enclosed space while working.

Those with medical or religious exemptions will have the opportunity to submit accommodation request forms.

It was reiterated several times throughout the meeting that the policy, though voted on and implemented by the Pella School Board, is to comply with the national standard and not at the direction of Pella School Board members.

“In my estimation it isn’t about a vantage point or philosophy whether or not as a district we decided that this is the way to go, it’s about complying with the law which we have to do in many many many other circumstances.”

The policy passed 3-2. Timothy Tripp and Jesse Peterson voted against it.

Other board members supported the policy, but not without hesitation.

“I don’t like these mandates, but because I don’t want to put the board and the district at risk, I want to make sure that we have enough votes to pass this,” Gary Coppock said.

Elisa Klahsen expressed her appreciation for such a policy and willingness to participate for the health and safety of others.

“I think we need to ask the 7000 folks in Iowa who have passed away from this how they feel about their bodily autonomy at this point,” she said. “There’s a point in time where you have to look out for the greater good over oneself, so I’m happy to get a chance to vote for it.”

The board will meet again at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 10 for a work session following the Supreme Court’s decision on whether or not the mandates will stand.

Shannon Rabotski can be reached at srabotski@oskyherald.com.

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