Naugatuck, Region 16 school employees meeting mandate

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By Elio Gugliotti and Andreas Yilma, Staff

The vast majority of Naugatuck and Region 16 school employees are vaccinated against COVID-19, officials say, and those who aren’t are complying with a state mandate to get tested weekly.

In August, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an emergency order requiring certain state employees, K-12 teachers and other school staff, and early childhood workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. Medical and religious exemptions are allowed, though people exempt from getting vaccinated still need to get tested.

In August, Lamont set the deadline for the vaccination-or-testing requirements at Sept. 27. Lamont extended the deadline for state employees to Oct. 4.

Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini said 715 of the district’s 810 employees are fully vaccinated as of Oct. 6. He said the other 95 employees are required to test on a weekly basis, and 16 of them have applied for a medical or religious exemption.

He said as of last week no employee has flat out declined to be vaccinated or tested.

In Region 16, which is composed of Beacon Falls and Prospect, Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said as of Oct. 5 only 26 of the district’s roughly 450 employees were not vaccinated. Out of the 26 employees, who are complying with weekly testing, seven have received an exemption, he said.

The governor’s office reported Oct. 7 that 671 remaining executive branch employees out of the 32,000 subject to the executive order had not yet provided proof of vaccination or a negative test result for coronavirus.

While state agencies are working with employees who intend to comply, workers who deliberately refuse to get vaccinated or tested faced 45-day unpaid suspensions. The unpaid leaves of absence could lead to permanent job losses after 45 days if suspended employees continue to decline to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

The governor’s mandate does not apply to the judicial and legislative branches of government due to the constitutional separation of powers. Judicial officials are following a similar process and timeline for employees of the state court system, while the General Assembly is developing comparable requirements for legislative employees.

Lamont disclosed last week that the state is prepared to pay for weekly COVID-19 tests for state employees, a change from the previously announced policy that the state would pay for four weeks of initial testing. He said last week free testing will be part of an agreement that he expected to conclude with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition by the beginning of this week.

Lamont said employees who submit to weekly testing can take medical leave time to get tested, but no special accommodations will be made, such as paying workers one hour of overtime.

This is not the case for local school employees.

Montini and Yamin said school employees required to participate in weekly testing take the tests on their own time and have to pay for them.

In Naugatuck, employees submit their weekly test reports to the human resources department, Montini said.

Region 16 employees must submit their test results to school nurses by Monday of each week, Yamin said.

Yamin took exception with some of Lamont’s decisions, specifically extending the vaccination-or-test mandate for state employees while requiring school employees to meet the original deadline. He called it a contrarian move.

The Republican-American contributed to this report.