School Committee Mandates Student Vaccinations by Dec. 1 To Take Part In Sports, Extracurriculars

Photo: Students aged 16 and older who which to participate in sports and extracurriculars must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 1

The Belmont School Committee voted unanimously Tuesday, Oct. 5 to require students 16 and older to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to participate in school-sponsored athletics or extracurricular activity.

The mandate, according to the language in the interim policy, was passed to “promote public safety and the safety of students, facility and staff” during the worldwide pandemic that is “causing disruption of the traditional school day.”

“I do think it’s a step in the right direction to continue to create a safer environment as possible for school operations,” said Kate Bowen who heads the committee’s policy subcommittee which wrote and edited the new language.

The policy requires students who are age-eligible according to the Federal Drug Adminstration – current guidelines would impact those between 16 to 19 – have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson injection.

The new policy is an effort to spur Belmont’s already high vaccination rate in the 7th-12th grades which currently averaging in the low 80 percent range.

While voting in favor of the measure, committee members Bowen and Meg Moriarity along with Belmont Superintendent John Phelan expressed a worry that it would appear the policy is selecting a group of students based on interest or participation . But each acknowledged that the intent is trying to vaccinate as many students as possible in all settings in order to provide a safer environment.

Chair Amy Checkoway said it is important after the vote to inform families the policy was “going into place and making sure their questions are answered” while continuing to support access to vaccines for students.

The vote comes a day after the Belmont Board of Health recommended the committee mandate a vaccination requirement for all students 16 and up.

I’m in the process of consulting and finding out some more information from our legal counsel about next steps,” said Checkoway. “I think this is obviously a very important issue and something we neeed to discuss.”

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