School Committee Supports Move For Mandatory Student Covid Vaccination; ‘Jab To Play’ Athletics, Extra Curriculum Being Discussed

Photo: Students will need a vaccine card to attend Belmont schools if the Belmont School Committee has its way

While communities and states in parts of the US are passing laws preventing school districts from mandating vaccinations and/or masks and commentators saying vaccine requirements creates a “apartheid” system, Belmont is moving in the opposite direct as the School Committee vote unanimously at its Sept. 7 meeting to push the state to mandate a Covid-19 vaccination of every eligible student to attend school.

“Let us demonstrate [our commitment to protect children’s health] by taking the critical step of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for school attendance … ,” said a letter written by School Committee Chair Amy Checkoway.

Currently, students 16 and older can take any of the available vaccines while those 12 to 15 are able to be vaccinated on an emergency basis.

Calling it one of several pathways of requiring student vaccination, Checkoway drafted the letter addressed to the town’s state delegation, State Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Rep. Dave Rogers, to back the move several neighboring communities have committed to.

The letter (see below) asks the elected representatives to add Covid-19 to the list of vaccines – for measles and chicken pox – the state requires children to have before entering school and push the Department of Public Health to codify a similar step.

”We have no time to lose. The school year has already begun,” reads the letter dated Sept. 7.

In a related action, School Committee member Jamal Saeh proposed (see below) a requirement that any student who wished to participate in school-sponsored athletics or after school extra curriculum (clubs, theater etc) to be vaccinated to take part or they will have to take a weekly mandatory test. Saeh said the committee could make this a mandate as it doesn’t prevent a student from attending school and it would encourage the 20 percent of high school students who have yet to be vaccinated to get the jab.

“This will emphasize the importance of vaccination of the entire Belmont public school community,” said Saeh.

While the proposal received overall support by the committee, there were questions on how to implement this possible emergency policy change with sports beginning in two days (Belmont High Field Hockey starts the athletic year on Thursday) while Belmont Superintendent John Phelan noted the leadership of the Middlesex League athletic conference, in which Belmont is a member, was hesitant of supporting similar policies as all student athletes taking part in fall sports have signed up and were not expecting changes to their eligibility status once the season got underway.

Checkoway asked the athletic department to provide more “specifics” and how other districts are committed to similar proposals. The committee decided to delay a vote until its policy subcommittee to review the “first” reading and make recommendations. “But I am hearing urgency” to come to a resolution, noted Checkoway, saying Saeh’s proposal will return to the committee for its Sept. 21 meeting.