Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday that students 12 and older must show proof of vaccination against COVID within the first 20 days of the new school year to continue learning in-person at public and private schools.
The Daily Signal reports that Bowser admitted during a press conference that an alternative plan for students who cannot attend class had not been provided yet.
When the publication asked Bowser what the plan was for unvaccinated students before school begins on Monday, Bowser responded, “They can go to school on Monday, but they need to get their vaccinations … and their families will be alerted as to the dates.”
“We’re not offering remote learning for children, and families will need to comply with what is necessary to come to school,” Bowser said.
Students and faculty must also show proof of a negative COVID test before the first day of class.
The District of Columbia Public Schools issued a press release Thursday in which Bowser said that she and the districts are “excited to welcome our students, families, and staff back to school” while excluding those who refused to comply with the vaccine.
“The Coronavirus Immunization of School Students and Early Childhood Workers Amendment Act of 2021, which the Council passed in 2021, requires students ages 12 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend school,” the statement reads.
Earlier this month, Senate Democrats blocked a motion filed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would have protected Washington, D.C., students from the city’s vaccine mandate, which primarily blocks minority school kids 12 to 15 years of age from attending school.
Cruz said in a statement that the effects would have a further detrimental impact on students.
“In D.C., the rate of vaccination for students 12 to 15 is 85 percent,” Cruz said. “For African American students, the rate drops to 60 percent.”
D.C. Department of Health spokeswoman Kelsey Felton also confirmed to The Daily Wire that while approximately 85% of children aged 12-17 are vaccinated, 60% of African American children aged 12-17 are known to have already received two doses of the COVID vaccine.
“The actual percentages are likely higher because not all vaccines administered outside of the District are known to D.C. Health,” she explained. “The race-specific coverage number is particularly likely to be an underestimate because the COVID-19 vaccination records D.C. Health does receive from outside of the District often do not include both age and race.”
Paige Veliz-Gilbert, a teacher for DCPS, supports the mandate while acknowledging that it would affect her students in different ways.
“When I hear a hard-and-fast rule like ‘no vaccines, no schools,’ I think it favors families who are able to drop everything and get to the doctor and puts families with less resources or flexibility in a more precarious situation,” Veliz-Gilbert said, according to The Washington Post.
President Joe Biden last week issued a statement ahead of the upcoming 2022-2023 school year with back-to-school safety measures.
“Every American age 6 months and over is eligible to get vaccinated, and everyone age 5 and over is eligible for a booster shot after completing their primary series,” the Biden administration wrote in an August 16 statement. “Getting vaccinated and staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations are the most important ways that we can minimize the most serious impacts that COVID-19 can have on our children, their teachers, and their school communities.”
Mary Margaret Olohan contributed to this report.