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Governor Pritzker’s Vaccine Mandate for Pre-K-12 School Personnel

K-12 Education K-12 Education

Governor Pritzker has ordered a vaccine mandate for all teachers and staff at pre-K-12 schools, as well as students and personnel at higher education institutions. Under the Executive Order, all pre-K-12 school personnel must receive the first dose of a two-dose vaccination series, or a single-dose vaccination, by September 5, 2021. Second doses of the vaccine must be received by 30 days after the first dose. Those personnel who are not fully vaccinated, or those who are exempt due to medical reasons or based on a sincerely held religious belief, must submit to a routine testing schedule of at least once per week. IDPH or ISBE may increase the frequency of testing if circumstances necessitate. Those personnel who are not fully vaccinated and do not follow the required testing protocol must be excluded from school premises.   

ISBE is expected to issue emergency rules and an update with IDPH to its joint guidance in light of this new mandate. Until further rules and guidance are issued, and in advance of September 5, schools should work with legal counsel to begin putting into place the necessary protocols and communications to comply with this new Order. The key requirements of the Executive Order are the following:  

  • All School Personnel in “close contact” must be vaccinated. 
  • The Order applies to all school employees, volunteers, contractors, and others whom are close contacts 
  • The Order does not apply to those who are present at the school for only a short period of time and whose moments of close physical proximity to others on site are fleeting.  
  • Those not fully vaccinated must submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.  
  • By September 5, any employee who is not fully vaccinated must undergo weekly COVID-19 testing (at a minimum) until they are fully vaccinated.  
  • Schools may conduct testing on-site or may accept proof of a negative test result obtained elsewhere. 
  • The testing must be done “using a test that either has Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA or be operating per the Laboratory Developed Test requirements by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”  
  • IDPH recommends that school personnel be tested using a PCR test, if available. 
  • Schools must exclude employees who are not fully vaccinated and refuse to undergo testing. 
  • The Executive Order permits schools and school districts to implement vaccination or testing requirements that exceed the requirements of the Executive Order.  
  • For example, the Order does not prohibit a school or district from requiring all personnel to be vaccinated and permitting only those exempt due to medical or religious reasons to undergo testing as an alternative to vaccination.  

As schools and districts await further guidance from ISBE and IDPH in the form of emergency rules and updated guidance, below are some issues to begin considering with your internal teams and in consultation with legal counsel:  

  • Testing: Will you offer testing on-site, and if so, what type of testing? Will you recognize testing obtained from other locations, and if so, what kind will you accept?  
  • More restrictive measures: Will you require additional vaccination or testing measures that exceed the requirements of the Order?  
  • Communications: How will you communicate the vaccination and testing requirements to staff, volunteers, and those with whom the school or district contracts? What types of documentation will you require be submitted to support compliance with the requirements? 
  • Impact bargaining implications: How will you work with any applicable collective bargaining units to meet any bargaining obligations regarding the impact of the Order’s requirements? How will you address bargaining implications of any additional requirements the school or district puts in place that exceed the Order’s requirements? What will be the consequences for failure to comply besides exclusion – loss of pay, suspension, and/or notice to remedy and dismissal?  
  • Board and Administrative Action: What, if any, Board action should be taken to support compliance with the vaccination and testing requirements? What protocols or internal procedures will you put in place to support compliance? 

As additional rules and guidance are issued, we will have a toolkit available for schools to streamline compliance planning, including sample forms and communications. Please reach out to the authors of this Alert or any Franczek attorney with questions.