RPS board votes to make COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 8:38 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2021 at 11:18 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond school leaders decided Monday that teachers and staff will need to get vaccinated in order to return to the classroom. That decision came after those for and against a vaccine mandate spoke out at an RPS school board meeting.

Superintendent Jason Kamras says teachers will get an email Tuesday telling them how to upload proof of vaccination onto their district personnel file.

“Thank goodness. This is the right thing to do. We are on the right side of history here,” said parent Emily Kavanaugh. This is the news she wanted. “Educators need to follow the science. I think that’s their obligation to follow the science.”

The superintendent agrees, and it’s why he proposed a COVID vaccine mandate for all teachers and staff this school year.

“We know that the vaccine is the most effective mitigation strategy that is available to all of us,” Kamras said.

The state’s vaccine coordinator was on hand to inform school leaders just how much the Delta variant has led to more COVID cases.

“We had a really great June. We had about 150 cases a day total for the entire state, and now we’re averaging about 1,500 to 1,600 cases a day, so a 10x in the number of cases,” Dr. Danny Avula said.

That doesn’t mean all teachers want to be told to get a shot.

“Science changes as we get new data…The vaccine mandate is only going to create more mistrust [and] more pushback,” said teacher Andrea Bryant.

Board member Jonathan Young was the only member voting against the mandate. Although he believes in vaccinations, he believes teachers should have a choice.

“We consistently portray a messaging that we don’t trust them,” he said.

In the end, the superintendent got his wish. Teachers and staff with RPS will have to show proof of vaccination by Oct. 1, a few weeks after the school year begins.

“They have a moral and ethical obligation to take care of and protect the children of this city, and the vaccine mandate is what’s going to protect the children of this city,” Kavanaugh added.

There will be some exemptions to the mandate, including teachers who may have religious or medical reasons preventing them from getting a vaccine. The superintendent says their doctor will have to sign off on that.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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