Unless they can get an exemption for medical or religious reasons, all 1,400 full and part-time employees at Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The district’s Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night that employees must submit proof of vaccination by Oct. 15, or request an exemption from the administration by Sept. 15.

The mandate also covers contractors such as consultants who enter school buildings and providers of afterschool care.

It does not apply to parents or guardians. However, superintendent Devon Horton told the Board that in an effort to minimize the number of visitors, remote/virtual contact will be used “unless there are some unique circumstances.”

Staff members requesting vaccine exemption must submit documentation to the superintendent showing medical justification or a “sincerely held religious belief that prohibits vaccination,” according to the resolution approved by the Board.

Staff members who receive exemptions will face COVID tests at least once a week throughout the school year.

Employees who fail to provide proof of vaccination or do not have an approved exemption by Oct. 31 “will be deemed ineligible to work and will not be paid” until they provide documentation of the shots or of the permission not to get them.

Such employees could also be “subject to disciplinary action.”

Most District 65 pre-K through eighth grade students are too young to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. The minimum age is 12.

Masks are mandatory for all students and adults in school buildings.

District 65 school begins Wednesday, except at the Early Childhood Center, where the doors open Sept. 1.

District 202, Evanston Township High School, has been in session since Aug. 16. While ETHS is also requiring masks for everyone, there is no vaccination requirement for employees at this time.

But the number of high school students who are fully vaccinated is increasing.

As of Aug. 20, the ETHS COVID dashboard says 2,804 students, 75% of the ETHS total, have provided proof of vaccination. That’s 102 more students than the week before.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.