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Madison School District 'not considering' a staff vaccine mandate at this point

Madison School District 'not considering' a staff vaccine mandate at this point

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“COVID-19 vaccinated” stickers sit on tables as Sun Prairie Area School District staff receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at a staff vaccine clinic in March.

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As some of the nation’s largest school districts announce staff vaccination requirements, officials say no such effort is under consideration in the Madison Metropolitan School District.

“At this point, we are not considering any vaccine mandates,” spokesperson Tim LeMonds wrote in an email to the Cap Times Monday. “Throughout the pandemic and to the best of our ability, MMSD has followed guidance from the CDC and local health experts in combination with considering local COVID-19 conditions.

“To date, mandating all staff be vaccinated has not been a part of any guidance for schools, therefore, has not been a part of our COVID-19 safety planning discussions.”

Last Friday, Chicago Public Schools announced employees must show proof of vaccination, or documentation for an exemption, by Oct. 15. Those who cannot will be ineligible to work for the district, according to Chalkbeat.

[What are Madison-area school district mask policies for fall 2021?]

The education-focused outlet has reported that other big city districts, including Denver, Washington D.C. and Cincinnati, have also made vaccines mandatory for teachers.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also announced that all teachers will need to be vaccinated or take a weekly COVID-19 test by mid-October, similar to the plan for New York City.

Locally, City of Madison and Dane County employees will be under a similar mandate.

Madison Teachers Inc. communications specialist Michelle Michalak wrote in an email to the Cap Times that MTI is in alignment with the National Education Association, which recently endorsed vaccine requirements for school workers. NEA, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, announced last week that as long as “appropriate employee accommodations” are provided, vaccination requirements are appropriate.

“We also support regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of vaccination for those not yet vaccinated or those for whom vaccination is not medically appropriate or effective,” NEA wrote in its press release. “We believe that such vaccine requirements and accommodations are an appropriate, responsible, and necessary step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our students.”

[Some parent groups across Wisconsin oppose mask mandates despite public health guidance]

The other major national teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers, encouraged workers to negotiate on potential mandates but stopped short of endorsing them.

Michalak wrote that MTI does not have an estimate of how many of its members are fully vaccinated.

MMSD officials had previously announced they would require masks for all students and staff to begin this fall regardless of vaccination status. Public Health Madison & Dane County backed that requirement Tuesday with a new order through Sept. 16 requiring masking indoors.

Elementary students are not yet eligible for any vaccine, complicating the return to in-person instruction as the delta variant continues to spread.

While children have been less likely to suffer serious complications from COVID-19, there is concern that could change with a variant, as well as over the potential long-term effects of the virus.

[Dane County, Madison employees required to show proof of vaccination]

Mask mandates in Madison-area suburban districts had faced opposition from groups of vocal parents. Some states have had Republican governors forbid school districts from implementing mask mandates, including in Texas and Florida.

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