Philadelphia School Board votes to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for teachers, staff

The Philadelphia School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for teachers and staff.

"It is the Board’s duty to protect our children, many of whom cannot get vaccinated, and being vaccinated is the best protection against the virus," said Board President Joyce S. Wilkerson. "We believe that preventing COVID-19 infections through vaccines will lead to fewer missed school days, more in-person learning days, and ultimately, to improved student achievement."

The vaccine mandate was approved as Philadelphia faces a growing number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, driven by the Delta variant which is more transmissible than earlier forms of the virus.

The board’s resolution directs the superintendent to develop and implement a mandatory vaccination plan that would require employees, contracted workers and service employees who work in District facilities and on district property to be fully vaccinated and to submit proof of vaccination status. The plan would also include a process to request exemptions and accommodations for certain documented medical circumstances or sincerely held religious beliefs. 

Details of the plan will be developed and shared soon with district staff and school communities.

Philadelphia schools will re-open next week, and for many of the district’s 120,000 students, it will be the first time they attend in-person classes since nearly 18 months ago when the city first announced COVID-19 lockdowns. The district has been preparing for the return of students Aug. 31, announcing a mask mandate for staff and students earlier this summer and a weekly testing regimen for staff, as well as twice weekly testing for students in competitive sports or in activities like chorus.

The resolution passed Tuesday includes a note that the district will discuss developing incentives and work to provide easy access to the vaccine for teachers and staff and certain contract workers who will fall under the mandate.

The move comes amid other state and local mandates for teacher vaccinations in the last week including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s mandate Monday that teachers and school staff statewide be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or submit to regular testing. New York City Public Schools also issued a no-option vaccination mandate for the city’s 148,000 public school teachers and staff Monday.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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