2021 | Schools

MCPS will require employees to get COVID-19 vaccine or be tested weekly

District announcement follows similar measure from county last week

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All Montgomery County Public Schools employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or agree to weekly testing, the district announced Friday.

MCPS, Maryland’s largest school district and one of the county’s largest employers, will require its approximately 24,000 staff members to provide proof of vaccination. If they do not, or choose to not be vaccinated, they must agree to take a COVID-19 test once per week, according to documents released by MCPS.

Also see: MCPS commits to in-person classes unless state orders buildings to close

No more information was provided about the requirement on Friday, including by what date proof of vaccination must be submitted or testing procedures. The documents released by MCPS said additional details “will be shared with employees prior to the start of the school year,” and a district spokeswoman said the same when asked for more information.

Many advocating for the mandate for teachers have said it’s a measure that will help protect the county’s youngest children, who are not yet eligible for a vaccine as concerns about the spread of COVID-19 variants escalate.

District leaders first disclosed to Bethesda Beat on Monday they were considering a possible vaccination mandate for employees. They said they were “very early in discussion” and did not release any details about the possible mandate.

Spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said at the time that the consideration was prompted by a vaccination mandate passed last week for county employees.

During a call with reporters last week, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced that he planned to require county employees to provide proof of vaccination or to submit to regular testing. The County Council, acting as the local Board of Health, the next day approved a measure requiring an implementation plan be submitted by Aug. 20, which includes all county employees. MCPS staff members are not considered county employees.

Jennifer Martin, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, the county teachers union, said in an interview on Friday that the group is committed to implementing measures necessary to ensure schools are fully reopened throughout the next school year.

In the winter and spring, as part of a push to reopen public school buildings after a yearlong closure, the county prioritized educators in its vaccination plan. By March, all MCPS employees had received an offer to receive a vaccination, according to county health officials.

As of June 3, MCPS estimated that 70% of its employees had been vaccinated. Updated estimates were not available Friday.

With the district planning to reopen schools full-time in the fall, MCPS’ interim superintendent, Monifa McKnight, told the school board last month that employees will be expected to return to buildings, regardless of their vaccination status.

Over the past week, many school districts across the country — including the country’s largest, in New York City — have announced similar vaccinate-or-test mandates as MCPS’ announcement on Friday.

All teachers in California will be required to be vaccinated or routinely tested, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this week.

Some local districts, like Howard County Public Schools and Arlington County Public Schools, this week also announced vaccination requirements for employees.

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