Newton public school educators and employees will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 15 after the town’s school board approved a mandate Wednesday night.
The mandate allows certain exemptions for medical and religious reasons. Staff members who are exempt must submit to weekly testing provided by the school or present official proof of a negative weekly test.
“We believe this is the best way to keep students and faculty safe and to keep students in school,” said Ruth Goldman, chair of the school board. “Our top priority is a full in-person return for all of our students and staff, and the best way to achieve this is to have [as many people] vaccinated as humanely as possible.
The vote passed 7-0, with two members absent from the meeting, Goldman said. The decision followed recommendations of the Committee’s Medical Advisory Group that all eligible faculty, staff and students be vaccinated.
An email sent to the president of the Newton Teachers Association was not immediately returned Wednesday evening.
In August, the leadership of the state’s largest teachers’ union voted in favor of a vaccination mandate for school employees and eligible students statewide. Districts should negotiate the specifics of vaccine requirements with their local teachers’ unions, the group said.
In Newton, the school board had previously adopted an indoor masking requirement for students, staff and anyone else working in or visiting the schools. A mask mandate for all indoor public spaces in the city goes into effect Thursday.
Newton students are expected to return to classrooms on September 9.
About 76% of Newton residents were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Aug. 24, according to the city. website.
“Newton is a highly vaccinated community in general, so I think that’s really part and parcel of what we want to do in Newton,” Goldman said. “We want our students to be in school in a healthy way all the time, and it’s about creating that environment.”
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