BELCHERTOWN, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The Belchertown School Committee received negative feedback from parents about a proposed vaccine mandate for eligible students 16 years and older in order to participate in extracurricular activities.
“If the school committee chooses to continue with this mandate, then I only have one option as a concerned parent -- to pull out candidate papers and run for school committee in a special election,” one parent said.
The committee amended their previous policy already, adding a weekly testing option for students whose parents did not want them to be vaccinated.
However, in a meeting Tuesday night where a final vote on that policy was expected, a new motion came to the floor.
“I don’t believe it’s our role to mandate a vaccine for students. I think this is the role for public health,” one school committee explained.
In a preliminary vote of 5 to 0, the committee approved a completely new policy. The policy did not include a vaccine mandate, however it did include that mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing will be required for all students in all grades participating in extracurricular activities, regardless of vaccination status for eligible students. Activities included sports and after-school clubs.
“Even if you’re vaccinated, you should be tested because you can still pass on the virus,” one person on the committee said.
Despite the unanimous vote, not all members were pleased.
“By testing every single student, we’re doing 4 times the work,” said another committee member.
The new policy still needs logistical planning. School officials said that with testing for that number of students, it will be double the work and impossible without added hands.
“Can we do it? I’m going to say yes. We can make it happen, but we need more staff, more team members to be there,” a school official said.
A final vote is expected in December. Clubs that count for a grade such as band were not included in this policy.