Only about 70% of school staff in Montgomery County, Maryland, chose to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, despite the teachers union objecting to opening schools for most of the year by citing educators’ commitment to extreme cautionary measures.
Montgomery County Public Schools Chief of Teaching, Learning and Schools Janet Wilson said last week that 25% to 30% of its employees — or more than 6,000 — had not been vaccinated, Bethesda Beat reported.
That’s despite the county offering the vaccines to teachers before regular citizens. Only 75% of employees ever requested a vaccine.
The suburban Maryland school system, one of the largest in the country, was closed for about a year, with teachers repeatedly objecting to administrators’ plans to reopen by saying they feared the virus.
The system had planned to reopen last fall but relented when the union objected. That plan “is wholly inadequate to protect the health and safety of students and staff,” the Montgomery County Educators Association (MCEA) union wrote at the time.
Later, when the district proposed returning a small number of children to school in March, MCEA called that plan “irresponsible,” writing that “MCPS is refusing to acknowledge that the lack of available vaccines is preventing educators from receiving the protection they need, and exposing them to unnecessary risk of harm in the in-school setting.”
It went so far as to take a vote of “no confidence” in the school system, resolving that “MCEA demands that MCPS shall develop and implement a coherent contact tracing and weekly diagnostic testing program in line with CDC guidelines prior to any return to worksites.”
A slew of demands also included potentially installing new air ventilation systems and providing teachers with medical-grade N95 masks.
What’s happened since has called into question whether some teachers were sincere about their reasons for not returning to school.
Unions have repeatedly shifted the goalposts, with the American Federation of Teachers saying last month that normal school should not resume next year unless there is a vaccine for children under 12, even though research has found that students are less likely to contract or spread coronavirus.
Emails showed that the AFT seemed to successfully lobby the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to alter its supposedly scientific guidance, keeping schools closed.
In one Massachusetts school district, teachers told children to write love poems to the vaccine.
In Missouri, children were forced to wear masks outside in the blistering heat, leading to medical complications, while union officials went into a classroom to read to masked children while they themselves did not wear masks. The Missouri union also posted pictures of retired teachers, who are in the age group most at risk of coronavirus, cavorting in close quarters without masks.
Some schools had teachers don white lab coats or even levels of personal protective equipment that bordered on hazmat suits, leading to a display that made a return to school unappealing to families. Other students who have returned to school have been forced to learn behind plexiglass walls, despite CDC Director Rochelle Walensky saying teachers are more likely to catch coronavirus outside of school than in it.
MCEA’s resolution was clear that it was holding out for money, saying “a return to in-person instruction requires human and capital resources that significantly exceed those of a pre-COVID era.”
Schools ultimately received more than $120 billion in coronavirus money, even though much of it does not have to be spent for years.
The MCEA also mixed racial demands with its purported coronavirus concerns, demanding that MCPS “shall adequately staff all instructional models, particularly those which directly serve Black and, [sic] Brown students.”
Even as schools were closed to in-person learning, the county planned a busing proposal that would distribute students based on race, drawing another wedge between teachers and parents.
The school system spent hundreds of thousands of dollars finding out what parents wanted. Its survey found that only 18% of respondents thought “balance diversity among nearby schools” was important, while more than twice as many (50%) thought it was not important. 79% of survey respondents thought it was “extremely important” to minimize boundary changes, while only 4% thought it was “not important.”
The school system recently passed a policy requiring it to prioritize race when drawing school boundaries.
Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala was noncommittal about whether the district would side with parents, telling The Daily Wire: “During the 2021–2022 school year, the Board will explore potential next steps based on the findings of the report.”
According to the CDC:
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. … Everyone 12 years of age and older is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination…
Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.