(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) All Fairfax County Public School employees will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing, the school system announced this morning.
The requirement will take effect “by late October,” according to the news release:
To keep our commitment to provide students with five days a week of in-person instruction this year. Vaccination is the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent severe illness. We must take every measure possible to keep our schools safe.
To give employees the peace of mind that comes with knowing their workplace is a safe place. Knowing coworkers are either vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 provides confidence and comfort so we can focus on our mission- educating kids.
To reassure FCPS students and families they are learning in the safest environment possible. We can assure everyone who enters our building that our workforce is either vaccinated or is reporting to work with a negative COVID-19 test.
To lead by example. FCPS continues to promote vaccination for everyone, including our students, as soon as they are eligible. Our goal is for every eligible employee to be vaccinated. The sooner our community reaches a high vaccination rate, the sooner we begin to put the pandemic behind us.
FCPS had already established a universal masking policy for all students, staff, and visitors inside school buildings, but as recently as Wednesday, officials had said that they were not mandating vaccinations, though the option had not been definitively ruled out.
The change comes days after two unions representing FCPS employees — the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and the Fairfax Education Association — issued statements saying that they would support a vaccine mandate.
“Our teachers and staff have gone above and beyond to keep their students safe and healthy during the pandemic. Most signed up for vaccines as soon as they were available,” Providence District School Board Member Karl Frisch said in a statement. “This was the right decision. To keep our students safe and our schools running smoothly, it is critical that everyone in our community who is eligible gets vaccinated — not only our educators and school employees. That is how we will ultimately put this pandemic behind us.”
As of 9:50 a.m. today (Friday), a majority of respondents in an informal poll conducted by Reston Now and sister site Tysons Reporter said they would support a vaccine requirement not just for staff, but also for students. However, the opposition to a mandate has grown since the results were checked last night.
Students will return to classes on Monday (Aug. 23).
“FCPS continues to encourage vaccination for everyone, including students, as soon as they are eligible,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a message sent out to families this morning. “This summer, Fairfax County has seen vaccination rates for our young people soar. We have some of the highest vaccination rates across the country for this age group.”
According to FCPS, 61.9% of adolescents aged 12-15 in Fairfax County are now fully vaccinated, along with 74.4% of 16 to 17-year-olds.
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