MMSD won’t require staff to get vaccine or regular COVID-19 testing

MMSD Referendum

The Madison Metropolitan School District won’t require their staff to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing for COVID-19 in the coming school year, according to a spokesperson.

Masks will be mandated inside school buildings and buses but not required outside, MMSD spokesperson Tim LeMonds told News 3 Now in an interview on Monday.

“There’s no vaccine mandate for staff within MMSD. The only mandate we have is masks inside our school buildings.”

The news comes as Dane County re-implemented an indoor mask mandate on Tuesday, and both the city of Madison and Dane County imposed a vaccine requirement or regular COVID-19 testing on their employees.

Because vaccine requirements are not a part of CDC guidance, LeMonds said, they weren’t a part of the school district’s safety discussions.

“At this point in the game, we just don’t see that as being an effective strategy,” LeMonds noted. “We understand that whatever our decision is, there will be an opposing side to that. Everyone’s voice is important to us, and we consider all of the feedback that we get.”

Neither will the district be tracking how many of their staff or students are vaccinated. LeMonds said the district does not have the staff, equipment, or processes available to track vaccinations or require regular COVID-19 testing.

The news comes as a few major school districts nationwide announce vaccine requirements, including Chicago; Los Angeles has announced mandatory regular testing if teachers are not vaccinated. No Wisconsin school districts have announced a staff vaccine requirement yet.

“To compare us to Chicago or New York or Los Angeles or even Milwaukee or even Verona, the makeups of each one of those communities and each one of those school districts is just different,” LeMonds said. “I think it’s comparing apples to oranges.”

Staff and students are asked to not come to school this fall when they have symptoms, and abide by other social distancing and quarantine guidelines as recommended by the CDC.

A COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12 years old had not yet been approved, although it is currently undergoing clinical trials. All 50 states have varying requirements for certain types of vaccines for school children. Vaccine mandates for COVID-19 are allowed under federal law, supported by guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Justice issued last month telling employers that requirements are lawful, including for vaccines under an emergency authorization with the Food and Drug Administration.

MMSD said their teachers union, Madison Teachers, Inc., had been part of COVID-19 safety discussions going into the school year, and that vaccine and testing requirements hadn’t been part of those conversations. MTI was not immediately available for comment; this article will be updated when they respond.