After mask mandate, Baker defers to locals on teacher vax mandate


BOSTON (SHNS) – Decisions about COVID-19 vaccine mandates for school teachers and staff fall to local leaders, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday, expressing “hope” that municipal officials would participate in discussions about the policy.

Asked if he was considering a requirement for teachers to get immunized against the virus, Baker replied that “cities and towns have the primary relationship in Massachusetts with the school’s employees.”

“I certainly would hope that most folks — especially since the teachers unions have expressed an interest in supporting vaccinations for everybody in the school building — would be willing to engage in those discussions and see where they can go,” Baker said. “But again, that is something that under state law and collective bargaining and everything else really does belong to the local level.”

On Aug. 19, Baker ordered executive branch employees to get vaccinated in the next two months or face disciplinary action up to and including termination. That decision, which he noted while discussing teacher vaccine mandates on Monday, will affect about 42,000 workers.

“We did that because many of our employees do have fairly regular contact with the public and with each other, and we felt it was important for them and for the people we deal with every single day to incorporate a mandate and basically send a message that we think, as an employer, this is important,” Baker said.

The Baker administration initially left decisions about mask requirements inside school buildings to individual districts, but last week, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley officially imposed a new policy requiring students and staff in public schools to wear masks indoors until at least Oct. 1.

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