Are Vaccine Mandates For School Districts During the 2021-2022 School Year on the Horizon?

If going back to school every fall wasn’t stressful enough, parents, teachers, and administrators have the additional stress of waiting to see if Covid-19 vaccine mandates will or will not take effect for public schools before the next school year begins.

While nearly 600 colleges and universities across the country have mandated vaccines for all returning students and staff, there’s currently not a single public school district that has done the same.

In July, President Joe Biden announced a tough new policy for all federal workers that requires them to be vaccinated or to follow strict masking, testing, and social distancing rules. He went on to say that he encouraged school districts across the country to also require vaccines for everyone eligible.  He went on to say that he wasn’t really sure if the federal government could require them to do so or not.

As it stands, every state in the nation, including Washington, DC, require routine vaccinations before students can be enrolled in the public school system. While vaccine mandates in each state differ, with some states allowing exemptions for religious, medical, or philosophical reasons, most states tend to follow the CDC’s guidelines for immunization.

The routine vaccinations on the list often include diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DTaP), influenza, measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), polio, and varicella or chickenpox. So it stands to reason that at some point, the COVID 19 vaccine may be added to the list of required vaccines for children in all school districts.

At this point in time, with the COVID-19 vaccine is only approved for children 12 years of age and older, and there are no COVID vaccine mandates for children within the public school system.

With only 39% of children ages 12-15 and 50% of children aged 16-18 who’ve received at least one dose of the vaccine, some parents and teachers are concerned that cases are going to explode as soon as school resumes in the fall, especially with the highly-contagious delta variant making its way around the country.  As of this writing, the COVID infection rate 930% higher than it was in June, just under two months ago.  The majority of the infections are of the Delta variant and are among the unvaccinated. 

But 9 states have already enacted legislation that bans vaccine mandates within the public school system, essentially tying the hands of local government officials who would have otherwise required it. These states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah.

So the question becomes, what about administrators, teachers, and staff who regularly interact with these students?

As of now, an impressive 80% of professionals in the education field have already been vaccinated.

And 2 cities have addressed the vaccine debate of public school employees head-on. Mayor Bill de Blasio is requiring COVID vaccines or weekly testing for all public school employees in New York City and The United Federation of Teachers is backing that decision. Furthermore, Mayor Michael Hancock mandated that all teachers receive the COVID vaccine in the city of Denver.

Plus, Randi Weingarten recently said that The American Federation of Teachers was also looking into vaccine mandates, a reversal from what some unions have said in recent months.

Regardless of what “side” you might be on, the health and safety of our children are at risk.  Moving schools to a virtual classroom can help significantly reduce the infection rate in our kids.  Doing virtual classes, is very different than an online program.  Virtual classes are virtual instructor led and the kids still go into a live classroom, with lots of engagement tools and connections to the teacher, teacher’s aids and other students. 

The key to a successful virtual classroom program is using technology built specifically for education, teaching and learning.  Corporate-based solutions like Teams and Zoom are not focused on what students and teachers need, nor can they provide you with the classroom and student metrics needed to ensure learning is occurring.