MILWAUKEE - Proof of vaccination or a weekly COVID-19 test has become a term of employment for thousands of Milwaukee Public Schools employees, as outlined in a special school board meeting Thursday night, Sept. 6. It's a plan the teachers' union offered support for – a plan passed by the board unanimously during Thursday's meeting.
All MPS employees must have proof of vaccination by Nov. 1. This includes interns, student teachers and volunteers.
The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association said this mandate would be pivotal for school safety, as 150 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19 just last week.
The plan could include incentives for staff and eligible students.
Opponents fear the mandate could hurt the district's staffing situation.
The same week Morse Middle School moved to virtual learning, with 3% or more of its total school population testing positive for COVID-19, district administrators asked the board to require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1 or take a weekly COVID-19 test.
Employees that do not comply would be placed on unpaid leave and could face termination.
Despite mixed reaction from public commenters during Thursday's meeting, board members then questioned the administration on its recommendation, including concerns a mandate could force employees away.
The plan includes recommending incentives for staff and eligible students to get vaccinated, a move the district says could cost more than $4 million if offering $100 each.
The teachers' union voiced support for a vaccine mandate and incentive but a member of the city attorney's office advised them against doing both, as it could be viewed as discrimination.
MTEA supports plan
The teachers' union announced its support for a potential vaccine mandate on Thursday.
"To be clear, vaccination is our ticket out of this pandemic," said the head of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association Amy Mizialko.
On Thursday morning, Mizialko supported a vaccine mandate for MPS teachers and staff.
"As long as all employees are given their recognized legal exceptions for vaccine requirements," said Mizialko.
"We are working to make our schools as safe as possible," said MPS School Board President Bob Peterson.
He also supports the proposed vaccine mandate.
"It’s a message that we are taking this very seriously," he said.
The union says it does not know the percentage of its members who are vaccinated.
On Thursday morning, Mizailko called for monetary incentives for teachers, staff and students who receive a vaccine
"Regardless of what happens (Thursday) night, I really hope parents and the entire community realize it takes a whole community to make sure our children our safe," said Peterson.
President Biden Thursday announced that all employers with 100 or more employees will be required to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or require testing at least once a week.
The union also called on the city to pass a new mask mandate in Milwaukee to help slow the spread of the virus.