Prince William County schools not imposing staff COVID-19 vaccine requirement, for now

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Days after Fairfax County Public Schools announced that all staff would need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or subjected to weekly COVID testing, Prince William County Schools – the second largest division in the state to Fairfax – is still declining to impose a similar mandate for staff.

Speaking to the media Monday morning in front of Freedom High School, Superintendent LaTanya McDade said a vaccine mandate is “worth exploring” but that she wasn’t working on implementing one at the time being.

“We do want students not only to return, but we want students to remain in school and to reduce as much as possible any need for quarantine and disruption,” McDade told InsideNoVa. “And we do know that the vaccination is our best defense against not only COVID but also in keeping our students in school.”

McDade said she “absolutely” wants people to get vaccinated. Currently, the division does not have a record of which staff members have been vaccinated and which have not. According to human resources staff, if students or staff are exposed to a known case of COVID, they will then be asked whether or not they’ve been vaccinated, which could dictate whether they are required to quarantine.

The division is following state and federal guidance in requiring masking for students and staff while indoors during the school day, but schools are using different strategies to try to limit any possible spread of the virus during lunch, when students are generally in one place and unmasked.

On Aug. 20, Fairfax County Public Schools joined the school divisions in Alexandria, Arlington, the District of Columbia and Montgomery County in announcing that all employees would have to be vaccinated against COVID or be tested for the virus weekly. Currently, like all other divisions in the state, Prince William requires students to have 11 different inoculations against 15 different diseases.

Woodbridge School Board representative Loree Williams, also at Freedom on Monday, said she would want the vaccines to be fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration before requiring them.

Previously, all three COVID vaccines available in the United States were approved by the FDA under an emergency use authorization, but later Monday morning, the FDA officially granted the Pfizer vaccine – the only one approved for 12- to 18-year-olds – full approval. The FDA is expected to give the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which experts consider safe and effective, full approval shortly.

Earlier this year, Williams voted against a School Board resolution that would have simply encouraged staff to be vaccinated against COVID, but on Monday indicated she is open to the division instituting a mandate.

“Personally, I think it’s a good idea for our staff to be vaccinated. I think making it mandatory is following the current trends of what’s going on,” Williams said. “I feel it’s more appropriate for it to be mandatory after it’s fully approved by the FDA; I think that makes everybody feel more comfortable. But I don’t see it any differently than any other vaccinations that we have to get as children or adults.”

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