August 04, 2021
The Upper Merion School District voted unanimously on Monday to require all employees, including teachers, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to routine testing — making it one of the first districts in the Philadelphia area to do so.
Board members pushed for the plan to promote the health and safety of its students after the Delta variant has caused Montgomery County's percent positivity to increase.
Now, teachers and staff will have to show proof of vaccination or get tested for COVID-19 twice a week and wear a face mask.
The district was able to bypass collective bargaining with its employee unions because the resolution is not a vaccination mandate and offers another option for employees. Those unions, however, said they are in full support of the policy, WHYY reported.
"We are not mandating vaccinations on the part of our professional and nonprofessional staff. We are creating a different situation based on the vaccination status of our staff," Jeffrey Sultanik, Upper Merion School District’s attorney, told CBS3. "We believe that this particular resolution will help us increase the health and safety of the students in Upper Merion School District."
Upper Merion School District President Gary Ledebur told WHYY that he believes 80% of the district's teachers are vaccinated, and fewer than 60% of other employees have been. All employees will be surveyed on vaccination status by Aug. 13, and those who don't respond will be considered unvaccinated and must submit to COVID-19 testing and mask-wearing.
The district is offering COVID-19 testing at its own expense, and it is also offering free vaccinations for its employees and students who are eligible.
"We believe that we want to encourage as many individuals to get the vaccinations so we can have as smooth a 2021-22 school year as possible," Ledebur said.
Across the country, school districts are grappling with whether or not to vaccinate its students. New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended universal masking, regardless of vaccination status, to curb the spread of the Delta variant.
The Philadelphia School District is already requiring its students and staff to wear masks, though no mandates or plans have been enforced regarding vaccination or testing.