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Milwaukee School Board considers mandating COVID-19 vaccines for teachers

teachers mask kids school Milwaukee
Posted at 5:29 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 19:22:30-04

MILWAUKEE — As a new school year gets underway for some Milwaukee students, the Milwaukee Public School board is considering mandating vaccines for teachers and staff. It is part of a resolution the MPS school board will discuss Tuesday.

Superintendent Keith Posley
Superintendent Keith Posley stands outside MacDowell Montessori School to welcome students back for the 2021-2022 school year.

The potential for a vaccine mandate comes as the school year gets underway at MacDowell Montessori School. As parents dropped off their children, most of the kids entering the building were under 12 and not yet eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Parents seemed split on whether they thought a vaccine mandate should be required for their children’s teachers.

students in school in mask and social distance
Students at MacDowell Montessori School sit in masks behind plastic partitions for safety during COVID as they begin their first day of class.

“I feel it is a person’s choice as long as everybody stays masked up,” said Marie Hegwood, parent of a 5-year-old student.

“I think it’s the easiest way for us to get out of all of this and control the spread,” said Kristen Gunderson-Inden, parent of an 8-year-old student.

teachers mask kids school Milwaukee
Milwaukee teachers stand in front of their students at MPS' MacDowell Montessori School in masks and one in a plastic shield to be safe during COVID.

Both the school district and the teachers’ union say they do not know how many educators have been vaccinated so far. But when you break down vaccination rates by school districts, Milwaukee Public Schools doesn’t even have half the population with one shot, whereas other major districts like Sheboygan and Waukesha are at 54% and Racine and Kenosha are at 49%.

Vaccine Rate by School District

  • Milwaukee School District: 43.9%
  • Waukesha School District: 54.0%
  • Sheboygan Area School District: 53.7%
  • Racine School District: 48.8%
  • Kenosha School District: 48.8%

Across the country, some schools districts have mandated vaccines. Chicago Public Schools and New York Public Schools are requiring it, along with the state of California.

The head of the Black Educators Caucus MKE, Angela Harris, says their teachers asked to be vaccinated in the spring to return to work, so they support a mandate.

students mask social distance
Students sit socially distanced and in masks at MacDowell Montessori School for the first day of class during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Teachers in our districts are immunocompromised and we want them to be able to feel safe as they return back to the building, and at least safe in the idea that the other educators that they work with will be vaccinated, even if the students aren't able to,” said Harris.

However, Milwaukee Teachers Educators Association president Amy Mizialko says they don’t have a formal position yet on the mandate.

“There are plenty of ways to [give] incentive, 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.

MPS school board president Bob Peterson says he is proposing the resolution to look into vaccine mandates, because it goes along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

“It says the main way to control this for everybody is to be vaccinated. And our percentages in this county [Milwaukee] are still much lower than they should be, so any step we can take I’m going to try to take,” said Peterson.

The school board will meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss a resolution that would look into the feasibility of mandating vaccines for teachers. You can watch the meeting here.

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