2021 | Schools

UPDATED: MCPS requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees, eliminating weekly testing option for most

People with documented medical exemptions can be tested weekly instead

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This story was updated at 9:30 p.m. Sept. 9, 2021, to add more information and a comment from the teachers union.

Montgomery County Public Schools employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, eliminating the option to instead be tested each week.

The only exception will be for workers who have a medical condition that prevents them from being vaccinated, as documented by a medical provider. Those employees must submit a negative COVID-19 test each week.

All other employees must provide verification of having at least the first dose of a vaccine by Sept. 30, and verification of full vaccination by Oct. 29.

About 75% of the district’s employees have reported their vaccination status, and of those who have already reported, about 96% are fully vaccinated, according to MCPS officials.

The new requirement, passed unanimously by the school board on Thursday, is a change from previous guidelines that allowed employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly.

In explaining the new vaccination requirement, Board of Education President Brenda Wolff said the “pandemic has recently grown worse with the spread of the Delta variant.”

“We believe vaccines not only provide protection for individuals, but are essential to community safety,” Wolff said, emphasizing that the district’s elementary school students aren’t yet eligible for a vaccine, putting them at greater risk of contracting the virus.

MCPS staff members on Thursday provided a breakdown of employee vaccination status by employee union:

• Montgomery County Education Association: 12,815 fully vaccinated, 335 unvaccinated and 69 partially vaccinated

• Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals: 750 vaccinated, 16 unvaccinated and three partially vaccinated

• Service Employees International Union Local 500: 4,844 fully vaccinated, 267 unvaccinated, 35 partially vaccinated.

About 6,000 employees have not responded to MCPS requests for information about their vaccination status, officials said Thursday.

Representatives of the administrator and service workers unions could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday night.

Jennifer Martin, the president of the teachers union, said the organization, which represents the majority of the district’s employees, supports the updated requirement.

“The vaccine is the best way to mitigate the severity of this disease and limit transmission and we think that layered with masking and washing hands and whatever mitigation measures we can take, that’s how we beat COVID,” Martin said. “We have a responsibility as educators to look out for students who don’t have the opportunity to get vaccinated, and a responsibility to keep one another safe.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com