About a month ago, the Harrisonburg School Board voted 4-2 to require that all employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit proof of weekly testing. There was some pushback from board members Kaylene Seigle and Obie Hill, who felt that a mandate was asking too much, and were particularly concerned about the cost burden of asking employees to test.
Although Superintendent Michael Richards could have mandated vaccines without School Board approval, he asked for it anyway as a show of support. Since last March, the School Board has approved almost all of Richards’ recommendations.
Mandatory testing will begin next week, Richards said. There are about five to 10 employees who are actively pushing back against the vaccine mandate and the weekly testing, he said. Many of them spoke at Tuesday’s work session.
But the overwhelming majority of employees are vaccinated. Only 8.5%, or 89 total employees, are unvaccinated and will have to begin testing weekly starting next week, compared to 967 who are fully vaccinated.
The vaccine helps protect against the highly contagious delta variant, which is affecting children in far greater numbers than was seen last year.
Harrisonburg City Public Schools has not seen an overwhelming number of positive cases among students, but far more than it saw last year.
According to the school division’s COVID-19 dashboard, there have been 98 confirmed cases among students since Aug. 24. HCPS has a large number of students in quarantine as well.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 270 students were in quarantine, including 152 from Harrisonburg High School alone.
Rockingham County Public Schools is not, at this time, mandating vaccinations for employees. It has seen 283 positive COVID-19 cases since Aug. 23.