Illinois’ vaccine mandate for K-12 teachers went into effect Monday after the deadline was postponed several weeks to allow staff time to get the shot. If educators are still unvaccinated, they need to be tested weekly.
Rockford Education Association president Mel Gilfillan says they feel “very good” that their vaccination rate is around 80%.
But for those who haven’t received their first vaccine dose, the district doesn’t have the capacity to test in-house yet.
“We do expect tests here by the last week of September, right up to the first of October to make it much easier for us to get our members tested,” he said.
The union president says they were surprised by the mandate and the logistics to regularly test staff wasn’t set up.
Unvaccinated teachers and staff have had to find testing elsewhere, or else they won’t be allowed back in the building. Some northern Illinois school administrators have said their teachers have had trouble finding accessible testing. Others have fielded pushback from staff about the mandate.
Gilfillan says so far high vax rates and indoor masking have helped Rockford avoid outbreaks and limit quarantines in the new school year.
“I think we have a little bit more specific rules about that, you know, vaccinated people not having to go immediately into [quarantine], according to the CDC guidelines,” he said. “Things like that and having so many people vaccinated.”
He also says substitute teachers would also have to comply with the state mandate.
Fully vaccinated people don’t need to immediately quarantine if they’re a close contact of someone who tested positive in a school. They do need to be tested and isolate if they develop symptoms.