Citing vaccine disparities, NAACP calls for expansion of DC online learning options

As D.C. gets set to begin a school year with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for some students, the D.C. branch of the NAACP is calling on D.C. Public Schools to expand their remote leaning programs to better accommodate unvaccinated students.

The first day of classes is Aug. 29. The school district says students 12 and older must have their first dose by Sept. 16, or they will not be allowed to attend classes or school activities.

In a statement Wednesday, the NAACP said it “supports the DCPS COVID-19 vaccine mandate,” saying it’s important to ensure the health of students, staff and the community.

But the group warned that the mandate could disproportionately affect Black attendance at school — and that could have ripple effects on school resources.

“Mandatory vaccinations may negatively impact attendance, and attendance impacts school funding, resources and students’ academic success,” branch president Akosua Ali said in the statement. “A quality, virtual learning program is necessary to keep students safe, while ensuring existing achievement gaps are not exacerbated.”

As of last week, D.C. COVID-19 data says 100% of white children ages 12 to 15 have received their COVID-19 shots, while 61% of Black children that age are vaccinated.

The NAACP called on DCPS to provide options for students who can’t or won’t get vaccinated, and adopt a “hold harmless” policy that would protect school funding from cuts related to enrollment declines.

At the same time, the group said, the school system should reach out to unvaccinated households to combat vaccine hesitancy.

Ali called vaccinations “critical to foster a safe, healthy, educational environment,” adding, “This pandemic is not over. COVID-19 and aggressive variants continue to ravage communities and unvaccinated, Black families are impacted at disproportionate rates.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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