WORTHINGTON — For now, face masks are still required at District 518 schools, for staff, students and visitors, but it remains unclear as to whether — or when — District 518 employees will need to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19.

During a meeting of the District 518 Board of Education's Instructional Committee Monday, Superintendent John Landgaard said the district is working to get COVID-19 testing procedures in place for employees.

At issue is President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 action plan, released Thursday, which includes a portion directing employers with more than 100 employees to require those workers to be vaccinated or tested for COVID at least once a week.

District 518 has more than 100 employees, but the plan as explained at whitehouse.gov/covidplan also states “This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees.” School districts are not private sector businesses.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) “hasn’t seen the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and we don’t know the exact details in it,” said James Honerman, communications director for the DLI. “Once the ETS is issued by Federal OSHA, Minnesota OSHA has 30 days to adopt it.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“Does this apply to teachers in Minnesota? We can’t say since we haven’t seen the ETS, yet Minnesota OSHA does have jurisdiction over public- and private-sector employers in Minnesota,” Honerman added.

On Monday, a Department of Labor spokesperson issued the following statement: “OSHA is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.

“OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees.

“The agency is developing a rule that will require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination. This requirement will be implemented through the ETS.”

Landgaard said he was hoping to set up a testing system so that employees being tested for COVID-19 could receive their results in half an hour.

When a committee member asked about the possibility of state lawsuits stopping the vaccine mandate, Landgaard said “I suspect there’s going to be court cases all over about everything.

“I think I’ve been threatened (with being) sued more times in this last year than I have in the last 10,” he added.

In other news Monday, the committee:

  • Agreed that Eric Parrish, teacher at Minnesota West Community and Technical College and director of the Worthington High School fall play, may put a middle school student in a role, should no high school student take it.

  • Discussed partnering with the city of Worthington and Nobles County to hire a consultant to come up with solutions for the childcare shortage in the area, which is affecting employers in the area. Three years ago, Landgaard said, District 518 lost three teachers because of the childcare shortage.

  • Received an enrollment update. As of last week, Landgaard said, Prairie Elementary had 745 students, the intermediate grades had 680, Worthington Middle School had 722 and WHS had 1,066 students enrolled, with the Learning Center at 143 students. District 518 is up 167 at this time. Official enrollment figures are determined on Oct. 1 and then sent to the state.

  • Heard that Trojan Field will host its dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1, prior to the start of the 7 p.m. football game. The public is invited to attend.

  • Learned that the graduation rate for 2022 is likely to seem very low, as a large group of students were required by immigration rules to enroll for classes as freshmen four years ago, even if they did not intend to stay, Landgaard said.

  • Discussed academic success in the district, noting that many students and community members aren’t aware of all the student academic support options available at District 518, such as night school.