The Committee of the Whole public hearing on: Bill 24-423, Coronavirus Immunization of School Students and Early Childhood Workers Amendment Act of 2021
Democrats for Education Reform DC
Good morning Chairman Mendelson and DC Council Committee of the Whole:
My name is Nikki D’Angelo, and I am a Ward 5 resident, DCPS parent, former DC charter school teacher, and former DCPS central office employee. I am testifying on behalf of Democrats for Education Reform DC (DFER D.C.). I am pleased to testify in support of Bill 24-423, Coronavirus Immunization of School Students, and Early Childhood Workers Amendment Act 2021. I hope that this testimony offers a unique and helpful perspective.
Vaccinated people are less likely to be hospitalized, become seriously ill, and die due to COVID-19. Ensuring our children and those who work with our children and young people get vaccinated is essential to putting communities and students’ health needs first. Many school districts across the country are making similar decisions, including Fairfax County schools, multiple New York Public Schools, and the entire state of Hawaii, which require all eligible student-athletes to be vaccinated. Additionally, outbreaks of the new Delta variant have caused nearly 700 schools nationwide to return to hybrid or fully online learning. As a single, working mother of a Kindergartener, my child and I cannot afford to go backward, especially returning to online learning. His brain development and my ability to provide for him are at stake. We must do all we can to keep our students safe and in school.
While I fully support this bill that will help keep students learning inside school buildings, I have a few concerns about how this bill would be implemented if passed.
- I am concerned about the eligible students who do not get vaccinated, even with the mandate, and what will happen to them.We do not want to exacerbate inequities for our public school students by closing school doors to students who are not vaccinated, particularly when they do not have much of a say when it comes to their health. As such, this bill, if passed, should be paired with an effort to ensure eligible students and child care staff have access to the COVID-19 vaccine and information about the vaccine.
- Relatedly, I am concerned about the rollout of vaccines for children ages 5-11. This age group could become eligible as early as November. What has the DC government learned since its last comprehensive rollout, and how will this one be better? I would recommend a phased rollout of the mandate, with students 12 years old and up being mandated first, and then students under 11 years old and below being mandated afterwards, earliest in January.
- The D.C. Council must consider who the responsibility of providing vaccinations falls on – schools, pediatricians, and/or the Department of Health – and whether they have the requisite resources.
Thank you for allowing me to testify in support of Bill 24-423. If the bill advances in the legislative process, I hope my concerns will be addressed.