Jersey City BOE seeks to expand COVID-19 testing to vaccinated staff, students with parental consent

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The Jersey City Board of Education are seeking to require all staff to get weekly COVID-19 testing, regardless if they are vaccinated or not, while students with parental consent will also be able to get tested in the coming days.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“We will also offer COVID screening for students and parents have the option for their children to participate. Only children who have their parent’s permission will be tested,” Superintendent of Schools Franklin Walker said at Monday’s caucus meeting.

“The COVID-19 testing program will be available to all students from pre-school to 12th grade. The screening will identify cases that will protect you, as well as family members, and will not impose consequences for children not participating.”

About 10 minutes later, Trustee Gerald Lyons questioned why vaccinated employees weren’t being tested since they can still get sick and transmit the disease, noting that he’s fully vaccinated and still caught COVID – albeit with relatively mild symptoms.

“For all of our staff that are vaccinated – they can be carrying it [COVID] as well. And I think to protect us legally, and I think ethically, it should be everyone gets tested once a week,” he began.

“If we’re gonna say we’re only gonna test the people that are unvaccinated, we’re sending out the wrong message because we know now for a fact that even vaccinated people can carry the … virus and can get it themselves.”

Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced a statewide vaccine/testing mandate for teachers, with all educators expected to be vaccinated by October 18th or be tested once or twice a week.

Now, it appears the Jersey City Public Schools are taking it a step beyond that, since under the governor’s order vaccinated school staff do not require testing.

Aft the board came back from closed session just before 9:30 p.m., BOE President Mussab Ali introduced a measure asking for all teachers and staff to be tested as Lyons had suggested.

“The Jersey City Public Schools shall expand the requirements under said order by mandating that all vaccinated, full-time employees of the Jersey City Public Schools shall be required to undergo weekly COVID testing in the same manner and procedures that non-vaccinated employees required under Executive Order 253,” he read into the record.

Trustee Lorenzo Richardson said that while he supported the testing effort, he wanted to be see both saliva and nasal testing available, though Ali said the district could only offer PCR (nasal) testing at this time since that is what the vendors up for a vote tomorrow offer.

The vote on first reading was approved 6-0(2), with Trustees Gina Verdibello and Joan Terrell-Paige abstaining. Trustee Alexander Hamilton was absent.

With approval on Thursday, the Jersey City BOE will have the second strictest COVID safety protocols in the county, behind only the Hoboken BOE who are also requiring testing for all students 12 and over.