MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Directors voted Thursday night to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all MPS staff.
The measure passed unanimously, 7-0, after nearly three hours of discussion. All staff must be vaccinated by November 1.
"The more people we can have vaccinated the better off we will be in controlling and mitigating this virus," said MPS Superintendent Dr. Keith Posley.
MPS now joins at least five other cities including St. Louis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Denver, and New York City, along with seven states, including Oregon, Washington, California, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Hawaii, which has or will have a vaccine mandate in place by the fall.
"I just think it's going to be better for moving forward with in-person instruction," said Posley.
The district will make exceptions for medical or religious reasons. During the meeting, the mandate drew mixed reactions from parents, MPS employees, and the teachers union.
"While I believe in vaccines and the good that they can do, I also believe in the medical freedom of choice," said MPS employee Sarah Gruettner.
"MTEA and our school nursing leaders stand ready to work with MPS to meet this important safety need," said Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association executive director, Ben Ward.
"We urge you, I urge you to please take this one crucial step to safeguarding our children," said one parent, Gregory Ludwig.
During the debate, concerns about possible teacher retention were also brought up.
"That's a significant concern considering the shortage that we are already facing," said Aisha Carr, an MPS board member.
But, others argued the vaccine mandate would actually do more good than harm.
"I think that we might find that there are actually individuals who will want to come and work in a district that has a mandate for everybody being vaccinated," said MPS board president, Bob Peterson.
The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association president Amy Mizialko says the union does not have an opinion on the mandate but strongly encourages its members to get the vaccine.
"There are plenty of ways to incentivize and school districts across the nation are doing this so we're looking forward to getting as many folks looped in and we should start with an incentive,” said Mizialko.
"At this point, over 200 million people have received the vaccine in the United States. You would be hard pressed to find drugs or vaccines that have been given to that many people. And have been so carefully studied and followed during that time,” Dr. Weston. "What we have learned from the studies and continue to learn from studies that come out on a daily basis is the vaccine is incredibly safe and incredibly effective.