MPS considers COVID vaccine mandate

Leaders of Milwaukee Public Schools are considering a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for workers. The proposal will be debated at a special school board meeting Thursday, Sept. 9. 

MPS Superintendent Keith Posley shared a report and proposal with the school board calling for all staff to be fully vaccinated or get an exemption by Nov. 1. It would apply not just to staff, but also school board members, interns and student teachers, and if you want to volunteer, you'd also need the shot.

"I’d be in favor it, yeah," said Josh Gollnick, father of a kindergartener. "I’m definitely in favor of more people being vaccinated. I would feel more comfortable with my son being here. I really don’t want him to get sick."

"I think it should be at the teacher’s discretion, as long as they’re wearing masks, and are being safe and washing their hands and everything," said Yolanda Lawson, grandmother of a second-grader.

Workers could get approved for a medical or religious exemption. Those exempted would need to take a COVID-19 test twice a week.

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Those workers who don’t comply would face unpaid leave and later could be fired. An MPS employee in August told board members she’s opposed.

"I have spiritual beliefs that I live by daily and am not led to vaccinate," said Shunda Davis. "I believe vaccination is a private and personal choice. Currently, vaccinated people are still getting COVID. I don’t believe anyone’s job should have the right to mandate what people do with their bodies."

Others want the board to mandate workers get the shot. 

"Three incentives for getting vaccinated and following a mandate: No. 1, not dying of COVID-19, No. 2, not infecting innocent children with COVID-19 and potentially causing their deaths and No. 3, keeping your job," said Ron Jansen during public comment at an August school board committee meeting.

Milwaukee Public Schools' superintendent as well as the district's chief human resources officer plan to present their proposal at Thursday's special board meeting.

"Given the urgency of our situation that we face with the delta variant, I felt that waiting to the end of September was not adequate," said Bob Peterson, MPS school board president. "We wanted to take action before then."

Peterson tells FOX6 he is optimistic the board will pass the vaccine mandate at the meeting. The vote will come after the public is able to share their thoughts during a public comment period.

The superintendent also recommends incentivizing staff and student vaccination. So what might those rewards be? Posley's recommendation leaves that to the board to hash out Thursday.

His report lists other school districts in the country offering workers money to get vaccinated, like Detroit schools giving $500 to employees. It also lists what some school districts have done to encourage students to get vaccinated, which also includes cash rewards.

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