Upstate school district to require weekly COVID tests for unvaccinated employees

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ANDERSON, SC (WSPA)– Anderson School District Five will soon require their employees to get weekly COVID-19 tests if they’re not vaccinated.

“One of the things that we’ve really encouraged is our employees to get vaccinated. We believe that’s the surest way that we can keep our schools open,” Superintendent Tom Wilson, Anderson School District Five, said. “In preparation to not have to close schools, one of the ways to do it, is to get people vaccinated. And we’ve offered an incentive as you may recall, $500 incentive for all full-time employees, $250 for part-time employees.”

Superintendent Wilson said he was not satisfied with the current number of people vaccinated. He hopes numbers will increase.

So we started brainstorming how can we incentivize more people to get vaccinated. So, what we’re going to do starting on September 20th, if you’re not vaccinated, every employee who is not vaccinated, will be tested for COVID every week. But if you are vaccinated and you have no symptoms, then you won’t have to be tested,” Superintendent Wilson said.

Employees will be tested at their school or work site. To opt out of testing, an employee will have to provide vaccination verification.

“We as nurses, we will conduct the testing, but I have not met with the nursing staff yet. We will meet Monday, to discuss the procedure and kind of work out the logistics of how that is going to work,” said Janis Bolden, Director of Nursing in Anderson School District Five.

Bolden said since school started on August 17, the district has seen an uptick in COVID cases compared to last year.

“On August the 18th, I had as many cases in one day, as I had in one month, on last school year. So we’ve been really busy,” Bolden said.

“Currently, we have around 15 employees who have COVID, who have tested positive, since school started,” Superintendent Wilson said. “Students, probably 120, 130 around in there,” he said.

“We just feel like if this is another way we can incentivize our employees to get vaccinated, the more we can do that, the more we can reach 80 percent, 90 percent. It makes it a safe school,” Superintendent Wilson said.

The district’s nursing staff will use rapid tests for the weekly testing.

“On last year, the State Department of Education and DHEC, provided rapid test kits to all schools in the state of South Carolina, and it was the decision of the superintendent to decide if their district would participate in testing. So, Mr. Wilson, our superintendent decided that we would test, and so the state department sent kits to our district, free of charge,” Bolden said.

Wilson said employees who decide to get the vaccine before September 20th, will be eligible to still receive the vaccination incentives.

“I hope our community understands that everything that we’re doing is allowing us to keep schools running, keep our kids face to face, because that’s the best way to educate them,” Superintendent Wilson said. “Our goal is for district five to be the safest school district in the state, when it comes to COVID exposure. That’s our number one goal, and I think we can reach it, and I think it’s something that our community can be proud of.”

Wilson said if someone refuses to be tested, there will be disciplinary action.

“Well, it’s a directive from the superintendent’s office, just like any other directive and if someone says I’m not going to do it, to me, there would be disciplinary action,” Superintendent Wilson said. “This is an expectation. It’s a directive, and hopefully no one will draw that line in the sand, but I believe firmly about this and we don’t want to get into that, but it is our expectation. If someone refuses to be tested, then we will deal with it at that time.”

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