ELLICOTT CITY (WJZ) — As school systems reevaluate their face covering policies, Howard County will become the first school system in the state to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for its employees.

Anyone who isn’t vaccinated will be subject to regular testing.

READ MORE: Maryland Schools Debate Masks for All, Mandatory Vaccine for Teachers; Harford Co. Latest To Require Masks

School doors open in just three weeks, and while Superintendent Michael Martirano said this wasn’t an easy decision to make, parents said they’re in full support. They said they don’t want another year of virtual learning.

Traci Spiegel of Glenwood has two kids in high school.

“Our children were locked in their rooms for an entire year,” she said. “I had teachers tell me that last year was a wash.”

Howard County already mandates masks in all schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Colleen Morris, president of the Howard County Education Association, said in a statement that a “safe and healthy return” to in-person learning is their top priority. She said the organization supports multiple paths to prevent COVID-19 transmission, including vaccines and universal masking.

“Nationally, while 90% of educators are vaccinated, less than 50% of adults and less than 40% of eligible students are fully vaccinated; we must increase these numbers to protect our students and to have the safe, healthy, and in-person school year that we all share as a goal,” she said.

Annie Rose Ramos