DETROIT (WXYZ) — All staff members who work at Detroit Public Schools will have to comply with a vaccine mandate come February 18.
The district says this is to keep COVID cases from spinning out of control.
Officials say most district employees already have the vaccine so this mandate will only impact a small percentage of people, but it could still make a big difference in a city where more than 60% of people are still unvaccinated.
"We do have an obligation to provide this safe learning environment as it relates to our young people," cabinet member of United Way for Southeast Michigan Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said.
As it stands now the environment inside Detroit Public Schools is unstable at best.
During Thursday's school board meeting Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said 150 positive cases in unvaccinated people forced 483 students and 99 staff members to quarantine this school year.
Vitti says the data supports a mandatory vaccine policy.
"This policy I think is a step toward using the tools that are now available to us in the pandemic to keep students in school," Superintendent Vitti said.
DPSCD is the largest district in the state and one of the few to impose the policy on employees.
Lansing Public Schools announced their mandate back in August.
Vitti says the vaccine requirement could apply to students by fall 2022 as long as it is legal.
"Will the state defer to the local health department? Will they just defer to us? Or do we already legally have that requirement this has already the subject of review by different attorneys," the superintendent questions.
Aside from the district, Detroit's vaccination rates as a whole are lagging behind neighboring areas.
In Wayne County, 66% of people have been vaccinated compared to 36% percent in the city of Detroit.
According to Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, 11,000 students who were forced to quarantine this year are a reflection of that percentage.
"This is a step needed for us to avoid that interruption in the educational process," she said.
Staff members who aren't granted a medical or religious exemption and do not comply with the vaccine mandate by February 18 could be fired.
In a statement the Detroit Federation of Teachers union said that they are aware of the vote taken by the Board to move forward with a vaccine requirement for DPSCD staff and understand that "the District, by law, is obligated to negotiate concerning a vaccine requirement, including the effects of such a requirement with the union."
"Negotiations have not occurred," the statement continues. "Rest assured that the union will fight for what's in the best interest of staff and students as we navigate through this difficult time with COVID. As developments occur we will keep members posted."