Brandywine Community Schools approves compliance with federal vaccine mandate

Published 8:12 am Friday, December 3, 2021

NILES — A local school district is preparing to ensure it is in compliance with a new federal mandate that seeks to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The Brandywine Community Schools Board of Education unanimously voted Thursday to authorize Superintendent Karen Weimer to take the necessary steps to make sure the district follows state regulations according to the Emergency Temporary Standard announced Nov. 4 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The ETS states that all unvaccinated workers at companies with more than 100 employees must begin wearing masks by Dec. 6 and provide a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis beginning Jan. 4. Companies are asked to have their plan finalized by Dec. 5 and have written documentation of all who are vaccinated or put protocols in place for a weekly testing program by Jan. 4.

While the ETS does not apply to public schools in Michigan, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected to adopt the ETS via a state plan. If adopted, MIOSHA must have a state plan within 30 days of the publication of the ETS.

According to Weimer, the MIOSHA plan is being assessed by Sixth Circuit Court with a ruling expected by Friday, Dec. 10.

“We’re just erring on the side of caution,” Weimer said. “Even though it’s still up in the air, we wanted to have something in place prior to the deadline.”

The newly-minted policy states Weimer will be authorized to issue necessary administrative guidelines to implement and enforce any MIOSHA rules related to ETS, including compelling the vaccination of employees or the provision of proof of testing for COVID-19 and wearing a face covering as prescribed.

District employees must comply with administrative guidelines and Weimer will keep the board informed of any actions taken under the policy.

The policy will cease to be effective in the event of the expiration of the ETS as long as the expiration date is consistent with other federal and state laws and any applicable executive orders and rules as determined by the superintendent and approved by the board.

“A lot of research went into this decision,” she said. “A lot of networking with our professional organizations, a lot of discussions with the company that writes our board policies, talking with them and talking with our attorneys just to make sure that we’re doing what we should be doing. From here, I will communicate to the staff what we did tonight and what the next steps are.”

With the pandemic continuing to impact the district, Weimer said she and the board are striving to keep students and staff safe as winter break approaches.

“I’m trying to keep things as normal as possible, which is hard,” Weimer said. “Everybody works hard to keep the kids and our staff safe. We have had to quarantine students, but we’re doing that at the behest of the Berrien County Health Department.”

Readers seeking more information on the vaccine mandate can visit osha.gov/coronavirus.

In other business, the board moved to upgrade switching and wireless access points district-wide for a price of $177,000.

In the context of information systems, “switching” is the practice of directing a signal or data element toward a particular hardware destination.

While the listed price is $177,000, Brandywine Information Systems Director David Fox said the district received an 80 percent discount through the E-Rate program, making the actual cost $35,428. Funding for the new switching and wireless access points will be provided via the district’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund.