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Local school districts call testing and vaccine mandate ‘tough’ and ‘frustrating’

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PEORIA (WEEK) -- Local school districts are working fast to have their employees vaccinated by Sept. 5, but superintendents call that deadline unrealistic.

Governor JB Pritzker requires all educators and school staff to get vaccinated and if they don't, they have to get tested weekly.

McLean County's Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry said meeting the deadline is frustrating because of the short turnaround and what he calls a lack of clarity, as staff still have lingering questions about who's able to opt out of getting the vaccine and lack of available test kits and clinics.

"I'm pretty sure that were gonna have some districts that are unable to achieve those timeline goals based on the availability or lack of availability of resources," Jontry said.

Jontry said school districts are already seeing staff shortages among cooks, custodians and bus drivers and the fear is the new testing and vaccine mandate will drive more of them away.

"Individuals that are employed in some of the lower paying jobs in our districts may choose to walk away from their jobs altogether," Jontry said.

"That will create an even bigger challenge in terms of being able to operate school in person on a daily basis," he added.

His counterpart in Peoria County Beth Crider said roughly 80% of school staff were already fully vaccinated at the end of the last school year.

But she agrees getting to 100% comes with challenges.

"Several districts are not opting to use testing within their school building," Crider said.

"Some don't have school nurses, so that isn't even an option for them to utilize. So were hoping to use community testing to meet the need," she added.

Both superintendents said they need clarification on testing protocols and more time to adjust to the mandate.

Darnysha Mitchell

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