Prince William school board to vote on suspending staff vaccine mandate

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

A resolution to suspend Prince William County Schools’ vaccination or testing mandate for all staff will go for a vote next week.

The proposal — made by Gainesville Board member Jennifer Wall, Board Chair Babur Lateef and Brentsville Board member Adele Jackson — would undo a resolution passed in September that mandated all staff to either be fully vaccinated by January or be subject to weekly COVID-19 testing. The new resolution is on the Feb. 16 board meeting’s agenda.

Testing began Jan. 24 for the minority of school staffers after a short delay because of test availability. Division leadership has said that over 90% of the division’s roughly 11,000 employees are vaccinated.

At the school board meeting Feb. 3, a group of employees spoke out against the mandate, saying it was unfair to single out those who hadn’t been vaccinated because everyone can contract COVID-19, and called the policy a violation of privacy.

“We ask you: if the students are the top priority, why would you threaten to remove their teachers amidst a critical year of recovery?” Cyndi Kilmer, a Gainesville High School social studies teacher said at the school board meeting. “If you value your staff and their roles, why would you attempt to enforce a policy that discriminates against and violates the privacy of those who have given so much to make in-person school possible?”

At the start of the winter semester, the division racked up all-time highs of student and staff COVID cases, but the numbers have since declined, as have the nation’s. Still, Virginia’s COVID death rate is well above the norm since the beginning of the pandemic, with over 100 people dying per day on average since the beginning of February. Virginia Department of Health data shows that unvaccinated people are more likely to spread, contract, be hospitalized from or die from COVID-19.

The proposed resolution says that “PWCS continues to strongly recommend that all eligible staff receive the COVID-19 vaccination as the best mitigation strategy available to combat the negative impacts of COVID-19.

Wall, who signaled that she would bring a proposal to reverse the previous board action, declined to respond to InsideNoVa requests for comment. Jackson and Lateef were not immediately available to comment.

Potomac School Board member Justin Wilk told InsideNoVa that he’ll be voting to remove the mandate. The resolution will need five votes to pass.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

 

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