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Denver requires all school staff to receive COVID vaccine

Public health order requires vaccinations by Sept. 30 for all public and private schools.

DENVER — Any person working regularly in a Denver school now has to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30, according to a public health order announced by Mayor Michael Hancock Monday morning.

"The silver bullet we need for a full recovery is to ensure maximum vaccination," Hancock said.

The public health order requires all 10,000 city workers and those working in "high risk" environments to get the vaccine, including anyone working in a school. Hancock said religious and medical exemptions are protected. 

"I think we all should've been talking about it," Rob Gould, Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) president, said.

>Video below: DPS Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero explains what went into the district's decision-making regarding its health and mask procedures for the upcoming school year

Gould said the DCTA, which represents 4,000 teachers, never got word this public health order was coming.

"I'm getting a lot of phone calls, a lot of text messages, a lot of surprise in the community," Gould said.

If teachers don't get both doses of the vaccine by Sept. 15, the mayor's office stated they will not be allowed to work starting Sept. 30.

"We know that the vaccinations are the key. So, that's something we could always encourage," Gould said. "It's the component of the mandate." 

All custodians, cafeteria workers, secretaries and even volunteers would have to get the vaccine. This applies to all religious and private schools and all colleges and universities in the city.

"I'm sure everybody is scrambling now to try to figure out where it is and where that communication piece, the collaboration piece is always the best way to solve these situations," Gould said.

Bob McDonald is executive director of Denver's Department of Public Health and Environment. McDonald said stopping the spread of COVID and the Delta variant takes precedent over everything.

"We need to make sure that everyone who comes in contact with kids in high-risk settings is vaccinated," McDonald said. "That's why we're asking and including teachers and volunteers in school systems because they can put unvaccinated kids at risk."

Gould said he doesn't know exactly how many of the union's 4,000 teachers are vaccinated, but thinks it's a high percentage. He said the union will work with Denver Public Schools (DPS) to figure out the logistics of this public health order.

DPS released this statement Monday afternoon:

"Denver Public Schools is in close collaboration with the city to support and implement this new health order, as we work together toward taking the necessary measures to ensure the safest and healthiest conditions in all of our schools and buildings for our children, staff, and families. In partnership with the city, our comprehensive approach to health and safety makes us stronger and helps to ensure the best conditions for a full year of in-person learning and support for our scholars. We will work with every single one of our team members to make sure they have the support they need to meet the requirements of this new public-health order. 

          We will have more information and guidance to share on our comprehensive health procedures and requirements, including masks, in the coming days."

Gould said this announcement was "abrupt" and would have liked some notice that all teachers needed to be vaccinated.

"Those one-on-one conversations that's how those vaccinations are happening," Gould said. "When you have a mandate such as this, it tends to shut down those conversations."