ROCKVILLE, Md. — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, some parents are pushing Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to instate a vaccine mandate for staff. The school system said it's considering it.
Parents like Adam Zimmerman who has a daughter going into fourth grade and a son heading into first grade, worry about their kids going back to school before they're eligible to be vaccinated.
"It's imperative that we do everything we can starting now, to ensure that our kids can get back into school safely and that schools can stay open safely. And that means, among many other steps that we need to take, ensuring that every adult in every school building in Montgomery County is fully vaccinated," he said. "Without a vaccine mandate for teachers and staff, it means that we're not doing everything possible to protect our kids when they head back to school in a time where the Delta variant is surging everywhere.”
He is urging MCPS to mandate vaccines for teachers and staff.
The president of the Montgomery County Education Association, Jennifer Martin, agrees with having vaccine rules.
“You are vaccinated, or you're getting frequent testing to me," Martin said. "And I think to our association that has worked for us that we have, the vast majority of our members already have chosen to get the vaccine.”
A spokesperson for MCPS said they know at least 16,000 of their 24,000 staff members have been vaccinated and say potentially thousands more have gotten vaccinated on their own. That's at least two-thirds of staff who are vaccinated.
The school system said they haven't decided yet if they'll institute a vaccine mandate. A spokesperson shared the following statement:
"We are reviewing what the county executive has proposed for county employees at this time and having discussions about potential next steps for the school system. We certainly understand the concerns in the community and are committed to having systems in place to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff."
Zimmerman said he's concerned about what will happen to students if they have to return to virtual learning again -- especially those who aren't privileged to have easy Internet access or a quiet space at home to learn.
"Our county has struggled for years with educational disparities that hit children of color the hardest, and those disparities have widened during the pandemic. And the school closures last year played a big part in that," he said. "If schools are forced to close again this year, it's going to be those same children and those same families who are hit hardest once again."
Since most of the school system's 70,000 elementary students are not eligible to be vaccinated yet, Zimmerman and Martin are pleading with the community to get vaccinated to protect the kids.