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Newton School Committee issues vaccine mandate for school employees

Horace Mann Elementary School in Newton.Leslie Anderson /Globe Staff (custom credit)/Leslie Anderson

Educators and employees in Newton’s public schools will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 15 after the city’s school committee approved a mandate Wednesday night.

The mandate allows some exemptions for medical and religious reasons. Staff members who are exempt must submit to weekly testing provided by the school or show official proof of a weekly negative test.

“We think this is the best way to keep students and faculty safe, and to keep students in school,” said Ruth Goldman, the school committee chair. “Our top priority is a full in-person return for all of our students and our employees, and the best way to do that is to have [as many people] vaccinated as humanly possible.”

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The vote passed 7-0, with two members absent from the meeting, Goldman said. The decision followed recommendations from the committee’s medical advisory group that all eligible faculty, staff, and students be vaccinated.

An e-mail sent to the president of the Newton Teachers Association was not immediately returned Wednesday night.

In August, the leadership of the state’s largest teachers union voted in support of a vaccine mandate for school employees and eligible students statewide. Districts should negotiate the specifics of vaccine requirements with their local teachers unions, the group said.

In Newton, the school committee had previously passed an indoor masking requirement for students, staff, and anyone else working in or visiting the schools. A mask mandate for all indoor public spaces in the city takes effect Thursday.

Newton students are set to return to the classrooms on Sept. 9.

About 76 percent of Newton residents were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as of Aug. 24, according to the town’s website.

“Newton is a highly vaccinated community in general, so I think this is really part and parcel of what we want to do in Newton,” Goldman said. “We want our students to be in school all the time in a healthy way, and this is all about creating that environment.”

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Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.