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'We want to protect the children': Deadline approaching for SLPS faculty, staff to get vaccinated

More than 95% of teachers are vaccinated according to AFT Local 420, the union that represents SLPS teachers

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Public School teachers have until Friday to prove they are fully vaccinated or else face discipline from the district.

“You either get a vaccine or find the best way to feed your family,” an anonymous teacher said.

This educator said she doesn’t plan on getting the vaccine either.

“I filed for a religious exemption and they denied it," she said. “They gave me no explanation other than the overall goodness of the kids."

She was denied twice. No major religion has come out in opposition of the COVID-19. In her case, she didn’t list a specific religion but has a steadfast spiritual connection.

“I pray daily, ask for guidance,” the educator said. “I continuously told the same thing. Never have I heard a message that says 'Go get the vaccine.' Even when faced with losing my job I never thought, let me run go get it."

She said she was open to weekly testing but that wasn’t offered.

"It's just not fair, to the kids and the continuity they have with the staff. I don't think the kids are being considered in this," she said.

She's not in AFT Local 420, the union that represents the teachers. Union Spokesperson Byron Clemens said more than 95 percent of members are vaccinated. The union is in favor of educators getting vaccinated and even took the district to task during the pandemic to make sure anyone who enters a school building has multiple protections from COVID-19. 

"It is a personal choice, but we want to protect the children of St. Louis, especially the young ones who can't be immunized themselves," Clemens said.

No matter vaccination status, Clemens guarantees due process for all teachers.

St. Louis Public Schools has a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss what's next as the deadline approaches on October 15. The board voted back August to make vaccination mandatory. SLPS has about 3,400 employees and almost 1,500 teachers.

During Tuesday night’s school board meeting, several teachers, who say they are “exhausted" and dealing with overcrowded classrooms daily, asked that the board rescind its new covid vaccine policy and devote more time to hiring more teachers.

“We have no problem with accommodations we’re presented with, twice-weekly testing, but being denied with no reason is a problem,” said a long-time music teacher.

“Students’ safety and well-being will be negatively affected with additional firings," said Alice Crockett, a 20-year teacher.

“We are enacting the policy based on what the board indicated. We are working through every teacher’s concern and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure every classroom is covered, but the policy is the policy and it really has begun. The deadline is officially on Friday,” said Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams.