Minneapolis Public Schools employees must either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested regularly under a mandate unanimously approved by the school board Tuesday night.

The policy will take effect by Oct. 15 and extends to contractors and volunteers who work directly with students.

It comes in response to a surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the highly contagious delta variant.

"These conversations around vaccines have been happening across the nation," Minneapolis Superintendent Ed Graff said.

"The commonality across all the districts including Minneapolis Public Schools is the belief that a high vaccination rate among our staff is critical to keeping our schools open for in-person instruction and protecting our students."

The St. Paul school board approved a similar vaccination mandate earlier this month.

Minneapolis school board member Ira Jourdain offered an amendment Tuesday to also require students in the district to be vaccinated.

"I think it's the right thing to do," Jourdain said. "I'm just worried about my own kids going to school."

The board voted against the amendment, citing the logistical challenges of tracking all of the students' vaccination status and the fact that COVID-19 vaccines are not yet approved for all kids.

Minneapolis school board members also heard a plan for how the district will spend federal COVID-19 relief funds. Much of the funding will be used to address the learning shortfalls of those students who fell behind during the pandemic.

Among many recommendations, the district is planning to spend about $75 million on staff retention and academic program continuity, $14 million on technological devices for students, nearly $12 million on building air system replacements and about $5 million on custodial recruitment and retention.

"The recommendations … represent a strategic approach to addressing the significant impact of COVID-19 learning disruptions on our students," Graff said.

"There is a close alignment with the long-term vision for our district."

Ryan Faircloth • 612-673-4234

Twitter: @ryanfaircloth