Loudoun County Public Schools superintendent Scott Ziegler announced Tuesday that all students participating in Virginia High School League winter and spring sports will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 8.
“This vaccination requirement for our student-athletes demonstrates our commitment to the safety of everyone within our schools and communities,” Ziegler said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “While LCPS acknowledges this is a difficult decision for some families, it is a necessary step that we must take to limit disruptions to the learning environment.”
Students participating in any out-of-season practices during the entirety of the 2021-2022 school year will also be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the statement. The vaccination requirement will not apply to students participating in the school system’s five main fall sports: football, cheerleading, golf, volleyball and cross country.
The Food and Drug Administration on August 23 gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals aged 16 or older. Federal officials said the same vaccine would be eligible for use among 12 to 15-year-olds under emergency use authorization.
In the LCPS statement, Ziegler said student-athletes were a “particularly vulnerable group,” since they’re required to go off-campus and compete against student-athletes in other schools. “The majority of past COVID-related disruptions to instruction for our high school students have come as a result of exposure during athletic activities,” he said.
LCPS will collaborate with the Loudoun County Health Department to make sure students who want to obtain a vaccine will be able to do so, school officials said in the statement. They also said the November 8 deadline should allow unvaccinated students “sufficient time” to meet the new requirement.
School administrators will allow exceptions to the vaccine requirement due to a medical condition or “bona fide religious belief,” according to the announcement. In such cases, students who remain unvaccinated will be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test result once per week after any exposure to the disease before they’re allowed to resume athletic activities.
Student athletes who meet the noted exemption requirements but fail to submit negative COVID-19 test results weekly will not be able to participate in school sports, administrators said in the statement.