MPS considering all-staff vaccine mandate

NOW: MPS considering all-staff vaccine mandate

Updated: 8:01 p.m. on Aug. 17, 2021

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Public Schools has taken a step closer to a vaccine mandate on all staff this fall.

The board voted Tuesday night to send the idea of a vaccine mandate back to administrators, to look at closely. They'll put together details to see if a mandate is legally and feasibly something Milwaukee Public Schools should do.

As children enjoy these last days of summer, parents wonder what another school year with the existence of Covid will look like.

"People are skeptical about the vaccination, but it's not gonna get better, it's not gonna get better, so if you don't get vaccinated it'll just get worse," said Richard McNutt, parent.

Milwaukee Public Schools have now chosen to consider mandating Covid vaccines for all staff. It's something other districts such as Chicago Public Schools and the entire state of California have recently done.

"The health and safety of our students is one of our top priorities," said MPS Board President Bob Peterson.

Peterson said MPS has acted responsibly during the Covid crisis, requiring masks, social distancing and regular handwashing. 

"But in my opinion, the recent upsurge and its increasing impact on children tells us what we are doing is still not enough," said Peterson.

Administrators have a little more than a month to put together a report on what a mandated vaccine might look like in Milwaukee. There is of course, mixed opinion in the community.

"I think they should have their vaccine required so that everybody can be safe," said Rene Devere, incoming 8th grade student.

"They should be vaccinated, yeah, because they're gonna work with our kids so you know, we want our kids to be protected as well as the teachers," said grandmother Maria Mustafa.

"I believe vaccination is a private and personal choice. I don't believe anyone's job should mandate," said MPS employee Shunda Davis.

The vaccine mandate would require all MPS teachers and staff to be vaccinated. Exceptions could be made for religious or medical reasons, but those people would still be required to get tested weekly.

Posted: 1:57 p.m. on Aug. 17, 2021

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58)-- A proposal to require Milwaukee Public Schools teachers and other staff to be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing is up for discussion Tuesday night, Aug. 17.

MPS is returning with a long list of COVID-19 mitigation strategies. Beyond encouragement, vaccinations aren't one of them.

"I believe that having most or all of our staff vaccinated is going to be one important step forward," School Board President Bob Peterson said.

Peterson is taking that step forward Tuesday night by introducing a proposal to require vaccinations for all MPS employees.

"Such a policy would include waivers for religious and medical reasons, and also procedure for anyone who doesn't get vaccinated. I'm talking about staff now, to have weekly COVID tests," Peterson said.

The policy itself remains to be fully written, but the idea is already seeing support.

"I think it's appropriate. I think it makes sense to do, because kids obviously right now are seeing the biggest upswing in getting COVID, and we want to do everything we can to help protect them," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Elected officials of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association haven't taken a formal opinion on the issue. President Amy Mizialko told CBS 58 she's on the side of the vaccine.

"It is terribly important for every single person who is eligible to become vaccinated to be vaccinated," Mizialko said. 

Attorney Erik Eisenmann, a partner at Husch Blackwell, told CBS 58 a public employer is legally allowed to mandate vaccines, but the union could fight it.

"The public school system has the right to mandate it, but I anticipate that you might see some pushback, both from the union and from individual teachers," Eisenmann said.

If a MPS employee can't or doesn't want to be vaccinated, Peterson feels there will be options for them that don't include quitting their job.

"I'll personally be happy to talk to anybody who has questions and reassure them that what we're interested in is a district that is as safe as possible for our kids and our staff," Peterson said.

The Accountability, Finance and Personnel meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Peterson doesn't anticipate this issue coming to a resolution tonight. His hope is to put a policy together in the next month, giving staff some time to get vaccinated if they haven't already.

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