Stoney criticizes RPS vaccine mandate reversal: ‘this is a serious misstep’

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Monday night, the Richmond School Board voted to stop disciplining staff who didn’t comply with its vaccine mandate put in place earlier this year, citing concerns with staffing shortages. It’s become yet another quarrel between Mayor Levar Stoney and the Richmond School Board.

Recently, heated back-and-forth discussions related to the rebuilding of George Wythe High School have caused a strained relationship between Stoney and a majority of the school board members.

Now Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is speaking out against the decision to reverse course saying “this is serious misstep” and it “robs the school board of their credibility.” The mayor has a similar vaccine mandate in place for city employees.

“You can not enact a public health mandate and then tear out the teeth of said mandate” Stoney said on Tuesday. “It’s essentially, the school board now is asking 29 individuals out of roughly 3,000, pretty please get the vaccine.”

When asked what he suggests doing to help with staffing issues, Stoney did not give 8News a straight answer but said this wasn’t the solution.

“We should not sacrifice public health, the health of those around us, for quick fixes,” Stoney said.

8News spoke with Richmond Public Schools teacher and Richmond Education Association president Katina Harris about the mandate reversal on Tuesday. She said she thinks at least some of teachers who quit over the school district’s vaccine mandate will come back under the new rules.

She said “religion, health and personal choice” were among the reasons that teachers she’s spoke with don’t want to get vaccinated, though staff were given the option to apply for a medical or religious exemption.

The school board lost around 30 teachers after implementing the vaccine mandate and punishing some employees, including docking their pay. “Termination or reduction of pay, all those things are going to impact their livelihood,” Harris said.

“Staffing is already an issue so hopefully they learn that we have to put that at the forefront of our decisions,” Harris said.

Now teachers will be able to keep their jobs and full pay without getting the vaccine as long as they agree to take a weekly COVID-19 test. Harris said, “We asked them that from the beginning.”

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