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Schools weigh vaccination mandate, other protocols



K-12 schools and colleges and universities question their ability to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations and wonder how far they should go with safety protocols as they prepare for student return.

"Going into fall, one of the best things schools should look at is vaccinations – encouraging vaccinations for all who are eligible," said Melanie Bennett, senior risk management counselor at Bethesda, Maryland-based United Educators, a mutual risk retention group that provides risk management consultation to

But many UE members, especially those in higher education, ask if it is wise to give COVID-19 vaccinations, she said.

"At the federal level, it is quite clear that they can be mandated (for employees) and very likely also for students," said Hillary Pettegrew, senior risk management advisor at UE. “You have to allow some exceptions. And some states also have specific laws that play into that.

According to the ranking site BestColleges.com, colleges and universities in 40 states ̵

1; including all Ivy League schools – will provide students with vaccination before returning to campus. Some private high schools have said they will need to vaccinate, but as of this month, no public school system has implemented a mandate.

Many schools take “very conscious steps to get back to a campus experience that is somewhat normal but realizes the importance. to maintain COVID protection and make all students feel comfortable, says John McLaughlin, senior director of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.'s Higher Education Practice in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. "It's a balancing act."

Although many expect the school year to be normal for students and staff, admission may be premature given the number of unvaccinated individuals, especially in lower secondary schools with many children under the age of 12, says Jennifer Smith, partner at the law firm Francisc PC office in Chicago

"In the fall, everyone will be accustomed to a new standard without new restrictions, and I expect that there will still be some mitigation that teachers must follow that people may not like," she says.

It may include continued masking and social distancing, but schools must also evaluate air quality, as poor ventilation spreads COVID-19 more easily, says Alex LeBeau, Orlando, Florida-based industrial hygienist and founder of Exposure Assessment Consulting LLC.

Mr. LeBeau suggests schools that their air filtration system work properly. This is especially crucial in buildings that have been vacant for a year, which would allow the spread of mold spores and Legionella, he said.

Currently, schools should take a "wait-and-see" approach when it comes to fall protection protocols. said Byron Given, Area Director, Regional Director, for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.'s Public Education K-12. “As we have learned all this, it is sometimes a step forward and two steps back. I think the worst is behind us; we've been through it now. If there's a new outbreak … at least we'm ready.

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