DC charter school tells staff get COVID-19 vaccine or resign

A D.C. charter network has informed its more than 180 staff members that not getting vaccinated by Oct. 29 will leave them out of a job.

The mandate comes from Rocketship Public Schools, a national charter network that operates three elementary-level schools in the city.

“While we understand that the vaccination, the choice to get vaccinated is a personal choice, it is also a choice that also impacts the health and well-being of our entire School community,” said Candice Bobo, executive director of the charter network.

Bobo said one thing fueling this decision is the fact that the 1,250 students they serve are not old enough to get the vaccine.

“So ensuring that all of our adults who serve our students in our school buildings are vaccinated was an important way to help protect them,” Bobo said.

D.C. Public Schools is allowing staff to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing for COVID-19.

Bobo said that was Rocketship’s requirement previously, but she claims they realized it wasn’t sufficient. According to Bobo, 27 unvaccinated staff members had to be quarantined because they came in close contact with someone that had COVID-19 or they tested positive for the virus.

“As you can imagine, it requires a tremendous amount of support for our staff to lean in when you have that many people absent from work for five to 10 days,” Bobo said.

In announcing the mandate, the school system also said several classes of students who came in close contact with staff who tested positive also had to be quarantined.

Bobo said the decision to enact this mandate was delayed until a vaccine received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The first vaccine to go from emergency use authorization to approval was the Pfizer vaccine.

Of the charter network’s 65 teachers in DC, Bobo said 70% of them have received a vaccine. She believes the majority of those who haven’t received their shots yet will do so before the Oct. 29 deadline. Those not vaccinated by that date, who were not granted a medical and religious exemption, will be considered to have voluntarily resigned, according to the school system.

“We hope that we’ll be able to start a movement, where all the charters and public schools are going to mandate this vaccine,” Bobo said.

Monument Academy and Perry Street Preparatory also have enacted similar policies, The Washington Post reported.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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