What Should Your School Do About COVID-19 This Year? 4 Policy Updates to Consider – JD Supra

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists and a new academic year is upon us, private and independent schools are understandably exhausted by the additional obligations imposed upon them over the last two years. Many are resistant to further COVID-19 guidelines and would like to simply return to a level of normalcy. However, it is clear that the pandemic and governmental safety and legal requirements will not permit schools to simply do nothing. Instead, you should be reviewing and updating policies to account for evolving federal, state, and local guidelines on managing the spread of COVID-19, keeping in mind how you can balance the desires (and demands) of your community. What protocols should you put in place? How will your community accept them? Here are four pandemic-related questions to consider as you prepare for the new school year.

An Important Opening Note

Before we review the four policy updates your school should consider, it is important to visit an important opening point. When it comes to sometimes contentious topics like masking requirements and quarantines, many schools are taking a more relaxed approach than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends. For example, instead of requiring quarantines when a student is exposed to the virus, some schools give parents the option to decide whether to send their child to school. Similarly, many schools in areas of high transmission do not require masking indoors.

As your school decides what rules to set and which policies to adopt, you should consider the needs of your community, your obligation to keep everyone safe, and potential legal exposure. For example, OSHA requires that employers maintain a workplace free of recognized hazards. COVID-19 is such a recognized hazard.

By not following CDC guidance, an employer may open themselves to exposure under OSHA’s General Duty Clause. In addition, some states, like Florida, have passed immunity laws which provide a school immunity from COVID-19 claims if the school followed governmental guidelines, and CDC and OSHA are clearly governmental guidelines. You may want to take a collaborative approach with your school administration and legal counsel, taking all of these factors into account, before deciding on how to approach these four policy areas for the 2022-2023 school year.

  1. Will You Require or Encourage Vaccination?

    Schools will need to continue monitoring state, local, and CDC guidelines and following good practices to ensure all members of your community stay safe. Although the CDC does not set vaccination requirements for schools or childcare centers, the agency recommends that all eligible employees get vaccinated against COVID-19. But should you require vaccination for your students or your staff?

    If Your School Decides to Encourage the Vaccine

    Due to concerns about employee relations issues and legal exposure, many schools are making COVID-19 vaccinations voluntary for both their students and staff. Many have decided to encourage the vaccine instead of mandating it. If you chose this route, you may want to review CDC guidance, which suggests that schools promote vaccination for employees and students in the following ways:

    • Provide information about vaccines and encourage evidence-based trust and confidence in vaccines.
    • Establish supportive policies and practices that make getting vaccinated easy and convenient. For example, you could create a workplace vaccination program or provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated or assist family members to get vaccinated.
    • Make vaccinations available on-site by hosting school-located vaccination clinics or connect eligible children, students, teachers, …….

      Source: https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/what-should-your-school-do-about-covid-9946989/

      As the COVID-19 pandemic persists and a new academic year is upon us, private and independent schools are understandably exhausted by the additional obligations imposed upon them over the last two years. Many are resistant to further COVID-19 guidelines and would like to simply return to a level of normalcy. However, it is clear that the pandemic and governmental safety and legal requirements will not permit schools to simply do nothing. Instead, you should be reviewing and updating policies to account for evolving federal, state, and local guidelines on managing the spread of COVID-19, keeping in mind how you can balance the desires (and demands) of your community. What protocols shoul…….

      As the COVID-19 pandemic persists and a new academic year is upon us, private and independent schools are understandably exhausted by the additional obligations imposed upon them over the last two years. Many are resistant to further COVID-19 guidelines and would like to simply return to a level of normalcy. However, it is clear that the pandemic and governmental safety and legal requirements will not permit schools to simply do nothing. Instead, you should be reviewing and updating policies to account for evolving federal, state, and local guidelines on managing the spread of COVID-19, keeping in mind how you can balance the desires (and demands) of your community. What protocols shoul…….

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