Montgomery County schools backing off employee vaccine mandate

Montgomery County Public Schools appears to be backing-off its vaccine mandate -- Maryland’s largest school district unable to afford losing any more teachers and staff as the COVID-19 pandemic worker shortages continue.

READ MORE: Montgomery County schools employees' COVID-19 vaccine status deadline arrives

Those staffers unvaccinated and those originally said to be possibly facing termination if they refused to be vaccinated by Wednesday, November 24th, will now get a weekly testing option, according to MCPS Spokesperson Chris Cram.

Noting the policy change, Cram said to FOX 5 in a written statement: "This is a balancing act between the safety of students and staff and the need to be staffed to fully operate schools and offices.  We are in a different place now than a few months ago. We have high levels of vaccination with employees and high levels of vaccination within the county. Now our youngest learners are able to be vaccinated and they are doing so at high rates."

Cram touted the school system’s  95% vaccination rate out of 24,594 employees. However the MCPS spokesperson also confirmed 463 employees still hadn’t reported their vaccination status when FOX 5 ask about the change on Tuesday. This is after not one, but two reporting deadlines passed just last week.

Cram also confirmed out of the nearly 25,000 member MCPS team, 807 employees are unvaccinated.

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FOX 5 was originally told Monday, Nov. 15, was the deadline for all MCPS employees to report their vaccination status. If they did not report by the second deadline of Friday, Nov. 19, the employee would not be paid for the Nov. 24 holiday. If the employee did not report being vaccinated by a third deadline on Nov. 24, MCPS previously said it would likely place that staffer on a path to termination.

Cram confirmed those who did not meet last Friday’s Nov. 19 reporting deadline still won’t receive the holiday pay -- but instead of threatening termination for employees not vaccinated by tomorrow, Cram said employees not vaccinated or refusing to report will now be required to submit a weekly negative COVID-19 test.

Cram told FOX 5 via email MCPS will make testing available at many school and office locations. If testing is not available at an employee’s assigned workplace, then the employee can use up to two hours of "unusual and imperative" leave to get tested.  Cram said this type of leave is not earned personal, sick or annual leave time.


Cram also told FOX 5 they are still requiring the 463 employees who have yet to attest to report their vaccination status. The MCPS spokesperson confirmed these employees will receive a letter of reprimand and loss of pay for Nov. 24 as well as "progressive discipline up to and including termination."

"This is ongoing work for MCPS to continue to press the importance of vaccination and remind employees that there is progressive discipline if the guidelines are not followed," Cram wrote.

Some parents online commented on the mandate change, arguing it makes no sense that student athletes would still be required to get vaccinated when staff and teachers no longer have to do so. FOX 5 asked about this and was told the athlete mandate will stay because the CDC specifically recommends it.

"The CDC specifically recommends that student-athletes be vaccinated due to increased exhalation that occurs during physical activity and the sustained close contact of sports that puts individuals at an increased risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. Further, the risk of COVID-19 spread increases the more time athletes, coaches, teachers, staff and spectators spend in close proximity or in indoor group settings. This includes time spent traveling to/from sporting events, meetings, meals, and other settings related to the events," he added.