By Tori Mason

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Aurora Public Schools sent a letter to employees on Aug. 23 saying COVID-19 vaccines will be mandated for staff during the 2021-2022 school year. The district first announced its plan to require vaccinations at the end of last school year.

(credit: CBS)

The news came on the same day the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

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Now, employees will be required to get a vaccine no later than Oct. 7 in order to keep their job. The mandate extends to interns and volunteers.

“We really wanted to make sure that we could set up structures and conditions that maintain our in-person learning environments as consistently as possible. A vaccine mandate for our staff made sense so that staff wouldn’t be quarantined and they could maintain a healthy and safe environment around kids who were not able to be vaccinated,” said Rico Munn, APS Superintendent.

Munn says APS staff already has a high vaccination rate. Not only will teachers be protected around unvaccinated students, Munn says the added layer of safety will keep classrooms from sitting empty.

“We heard from a lot of parents early on that they were very grateful for that step. It may have led to the fact that we have had a lot fewer families take advantage of the remote opportunity than we anticipated,” said Munn.

A healthcare Worker hands in surgical gloves pulling COVID-19 vaccine liquid from vial to vaccinate a patient.

Photo by Morsa Images/Getty Images

A total of 98% of students opted for in-person learning.

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APS was the first to require the vaccine, but they didn’t rush staff to get it. The FDA approval of Pfizer’s vaccine came just in time.

“Under the emergency use authorization, It was a debate as to whether or not employers can command it. We wanted to be very clear that we wanted to follow the law and respect people’s individual rights,” said Munn.

However, it’s not a right to work at Aurora Public Schools.

Exemptions due to a medical reason, disability or religious belief will need to be written and submitted to their respective human resources director. Staff who choose not to comply will be subject to discipline such as suspension or termination.

(credit: CBS)

District officials say the employee will need to prove this by showing their vaccination record card or immunization record. That information will then be recorded in a secure human resource system, they say.

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The employee has an exemption, human resources director and an immediate supervisor will then discuss accommodations which include wearing a face mask, physically distancing themselves from co-workers and/or getting tested for COVID-19 periodically.

Tori Mason