Fairfax County Public Schools will require students who play winter and spring high school sports this academic year to get a coronavirus vaccine, officials announced Monday — marking one of the first such student vaccine mandates nationwide.
Students who join any other activity that requires a physical — a category that includes step team and dance team, as well as out-of-season workouts and practices — will also have to provide proof of vaccination, Fairfax officials said.
In a news release, Superintendent Scott Brabrand called vaccination of students a key step to ensuring that children can learn in-person without disruption this year.
“The majority of pauses to instruction for our high school students come as a result of exposure during athletic activities,” Brabrand said in a statement. “These pauses impact participation in activities and in-person learning while the Fairfax County Health Department investigates and determines close contacts and next steps.”
The vaccine mandate will affect students participating in basketball, gymnastics, cheerleading, indoor and outdoor track and field, swim and dive, wrestling, rifle, baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis and crew, according to Fairfax spokeswoman Julie Moult.
Student athletes participating in fall sports will not face a vaccine requirement, Moult said, nor will they be asked to engage in coronavirus testing.
As of late August, according to Fairfax officials, roughly 75 percent of all 16- to 18-year-olds in the county are fully vaccinated, and about 85 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Fairfax reopened for face-to-face instruction for the vast majority of its roughly 180,000 students last week. Since the first day of school, Aug. 23, the school system has reported at least 116 student cases of the coronavirus and 19 confirmed cases among staff members, according to a Fairfax tracking website.
A spokeswoman did not immediately answer a question Monday asking how many Fairfax students and staffers had entered quarantine.
Over the past month, most Washington-area school systems — including Fairfax — adopted policies requiring vaccination or regular testing for school employees. But only one other has issued a vaccine mandate for students: Charles County Public Schools, which educates roughly 27,000 students in southern Maryland.
In late July, the district announced that, starting this fall, all high school students participating in sports must either provide proof of full vaccination or submit to weekly coronavirus testing.
If students fail to comply, they will “not be allowed to participate with the team, at practice or games,” Charles County officials wrote in a news release.
The pandemic’s impact on education
The latest: Updated coronavirus booster shots are now available for children as young as 5. To date, more than 10.5 million children have lost one or both parents or caregivers during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the classroom: Amid a teacher shortage, states desperate to fill teaching jobs have relaxed job requirements as staffing crises rise in many schools. American students’ test scores have even plummeted to levels unseen for decades. One D.C. school is using COVID relief funds to target students on the verge of failure.
Higher education: College and university enrollment is nowhere near pandemic level, experts worry. ACT and SAT testing have rebounded modestly since the massive disruptions early in the coronavirus pandemic, and many colleges are also easing mask rules.
DMV news: Most of Prince George’s students are scoring below grade level on district tests. D.C. Public School’s new reading curriculum is designed to help improve literacy among the city’s youngest readers.