The Roanoke Rapids Graded School District Board of Trustees is exploring its legal options while the courts continue to address the validity of OSHA’s finalized Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), according to a press release from Les Atkins, public information officer for the RRGSD.

The ETS covers workers employed by state and local governments, including educators and other school staff and requires employees either to get fully vaccinated or take weekly COVID tests and mask up in the workplace.

“We want our employees to do what’s best for them and their families,” said Board Chairman Jay Carlisle during a meeting Tuesday night. “We also want to comply with the law and do all we can to respect our employees’ privacy.”

Based on the board attorney’s advice, the district is going to proceed with collecting vaccination status and documentation as required. The vaccination status will be considered confidential medical information and will be kept secure with each school’s nurse.

If the courts rule in favor of OSHA’s ETS, the law would require all unvaccinated employees have weekly COVID-19 tests beginning Jan. 4, and wear a mask at work regardless of the district’s mask policy.

Additionally, RRGSD announced this week it will be using state contractor Mako Testing to conduct free on-site testing for students and staff. Both rapid and PCR testing will only be for the students and staff who are registered, and it will be conducted using a gentle nasal swabbing technique instead of the nasopharyngeal swab. This testing will not be mandatory for students.

In other news, RRGSD administrators presented five-year trends in accountability data and explored how the district is helping students who have unfinished learning and other COVID-19 learning loss.

“We’re focused on getting through this time together,” said Julie Thompson, interim superintendent. “Our student success is more than just testing data. Some of them lost parents or other family members during the pandemic and many have suffered social-emotional traumas. We’re looking at every way we can to support our students as we help them grow and close COVID-19-created gaps over the next few years.”

The board also honored outgoing Trustee Joey Briggs Tuesday night for his service to the district. New Trustee Carol Dean will be sworn in at the December meeting. Additionally, students from Belmont, Manning and Chaloner’s Visual Arts program were recognized as part of the district’s monthly student spotlight. The students shared their recent artwork to honor veterans as part of the district’s Veterans Day celebrations.

Carlisle also presented Chaloner Middle School Principal Angela Mallory with a certificate honoring her students who placed second in the North Carolina School Boards Association annual video contest.