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MCPS employees must be vaccinated; winter, spring athletes also must be inoculated

by Judith Hruz


All Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Montgomery County Board of Education voted unanimously on Sept. 9 to require the vaccinations unless an employee has a documented medical reason for not being inoculated.

If that is the case, the employee must be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

Until the new requirement was made, employees who chose not to be vaccinated could take the weekly tests.

“We’re in a business about children’s education and to that end we have to do everything we can to make sure that we have a healthy and safe environment,” said school board member Patricia O’Neill (Dist. 3). “Our children under 12 are not eligible for vaccines and, you know, we need to do everything we can as a community to stop the spread of COVID and to protect our youngest learners. I believe this is the appropriate thing to do.”

School officials said they will continue to provide vaccination clinics and other assistance needed to get everyone vaccinated.

According to school system statistics:

Of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), 12,815 members are vaccinated, 335 are unvaccinated and 69 are partially vaccinated.

Of the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals (MCAAP), 750 members are vaccinated, 16 are unvaccinated and three are partially vaccinated.

Of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500, 4,844 members are vaccinated, 267 are unvaccinated and 35 are partially vaccinated.

The first vaccinated must be received by Sept. 30, with the second no later than Oct. 29.

MCPS officials had not yet heard from 6,000 employees about their vaccinated status.

The school system is also requiring that students who want to participate in winter and spring sports be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In her presentation to the school board at its Sept. 9 meeting, Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa B. McKnight said winter and spring sports are high-impact sports, so the school system is communicating now with athletes who might be interested in participating.


Rapid testing to begin


The school board and MCPS officials will begin using rapid testing procedures to determine if a student or staff member has COVID-19.

Confusion arose after the opening of school on Aug. 30 when some 1,000 children and staff were sent home with symptoms of the coronavirus or because they came into close contact with those who had symptoms or tested positive for the virus.

In a letter to the school community on Sept. 8, and again during the Sept. 9 school board meeting, McKnight said MCPS is taking guidance from health officials on how to handle those cases.

According to school officials, during the week of Aug. 30 through Sept. 3, 44 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported.

Fifty-five students were sent home with COVID-19-like symptoms.

Of the 1,682 contacts who were placed in quarantine, 88 were students because of their close contact with someone who had a positive case of COVID-19.

“MCPS follows guidance from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS),” her letter states. “The Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education, using recommendations from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], provide guidance to assist local school districts but advise schools to ‘work with local health departments to determine the layered prevention strategies needed in their area to protect students/children, teachers, and staff.’”

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services will support the school system’s online rapid testing, which is expected to begin this week.

Rapid testing will reduce students in quarantine by immediately identifying the results of symptoms they might have.

If a student does test positive, the school system will provide live instruction, independent work and off-screen breaks for elementary school students and access to materials, checks and instructions, and support with each teacher daily for secondary school systems.

The school system will provide “well-being teams,” who will engage and support students in quarantine.

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