FILE - In this Wednesday, March 3, 2021 file photo, a pharmacist holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. Janssen Pharmaceuticals is a division of Johnson & Johnson. On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration released a report saying the now-idle Emergent Biosciences factory where a key contractor hired to help make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff, resulting in contamination of a batch of the vaccine. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

AURORA | Aurora Public Schools has become the first Denver metro area school district to require teachers and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19 for the fall school year.

In a letter that Superintendent Rico Munn sent out on Tuesday, he said that the mandate is conditional upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approving one or more of the vaccines.

The Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently approved under an “emergency use authorization,” which allows the FDA to approve medical treatments during public health emergencies on a faster timetable than would be normal. 

Under the emergency use authorization, vaccinations cannot be made mandatory.

“This action is in accord with our belief that the science around COVID-19 and the vaccines is clear and compelling, is in alignment with the guidance received from federal, state, and local public health authorities and supports our goal of returning to full in-person working and learning as soon as possible – and to the fullest extent possible,” Munn wrote.

Staff will be able to seek exemptions under state and federal law, the letter said. 

A district representative did not immediately respond to a Sentinel inquiry about whether employees who do not qualify for a religious or medical exemption but do not get vaccinated will be able to continue working for the district, but in an interview with 9News Munn said that in that case they will be “choosing not to work for APS.”

In a statement, Colorado Education Association President Amie Baca-Oehlert expressed support for APS’ decision.

“We believe that it is prudent for districts like Aurora Public Schools take measures to keep our students and educators safe as we plan for the 2021-22 school year,” she said. “We believe, and have said since the beginning, that a COVID-19 vaccination is just one of many components to safely returning full-time, in-person learning. We also want to ensure that educators and students are given the latitude to work with their districts and that special accommodations can be made if the educator or student cannot receive the vaccine due to medical or religious exemptions.”

A representative from the Aurora Education Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a post on the union’s Facebook page said that “CEA and AEA believe that vaccines are an important component in keeping students and educators safe but would like districts to work with staff if staff can’t get the vaccine for medical or religious reasons.”