Public schools in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland said Friday that they will require their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or agree to weekly testing prior to the start of the new school year.
Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Monica Goldson made the news official in a news release Friday afternoon, saying employees will need to provide proof of vaccination by Aug. 27.
Montgomery County schools listed their requirement for staff in the system’s 2021-22 Reopening Guide.
Employees in Prince George’s schools will get more information about how to submit proof or where to get weekly on-site tests by Aug. 20. Classes begin Sept. 8.
The release said that 12,000 Prince George’s school employees have already received the vaccine, either through clinics set up by the school system or through other community providers.
“Given the rise of the COVID-19 delta variant, this is a critical additional layer of protection for the health and safety of the students we serve, our colleagues, families, friends and neighbors,” Goldson said in the release.
Montgomery County’s guidelines said that “more details will be shared” about either submitting vaccination proof or weekly testing requirements “prior to the start of the school year.” The first day of school in Montgomery County is Aug. 30.
Prince George’s schools already established a universal masking policy in July. A day later, Montgomery County schools followed suit.
Howard County announces vaccination requirement at board meeting
Elsewhere, Howard County schools superintendent Michael Martirano announced staff would be required to show proof of full vaccination or agree to regular testing for the 2021-2022 school year at a board of education meeting on Thursday.
“After taking lots of input from individuals in our community — that made the decision very clear that this is what we wanted to do to keep our schools open,” Martirano told WTOP. “That’s my primary goal to use every tool that we have in front of us to keep our schools open, and masking and vaccines are a major tool and allowing that to occur.”
Martirano said he hopes for testing to be available within the school system for teachers and staff who are not vaccinated so they can get tested during their work days.
“So if I’m making this a condition of employment, I have to also provide the supports and make this easy for our staff to be able to do that, so it doesn’t take away from their job,” he said.
Beyond COVID-19 concerns, Martirano said there are a few issues facing the school system, with the largest being a shortage of bus drivers. Of the school system’s fleet of 476 buses, they’re currently short 94 drivers.
“So if anybody wants to be a bus driver for our county public school system, please call me. We’ll have the job for you,” he said.
Another concern is a number of vacancies in teaching positions, but Martirano said they are currently working to fill those gaps.
“I have a higher number of vacancies right this moment, but we’re moving forward and having some real good success here the last couple of weeks as we move into the first day of school, so I’m hopeful and optimistic about our teaching workforce,” he said.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan and Zeke Hartner contributed to this report.
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