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Virginia community colleges won't require vaccines

The Virginia Community College System also lifted the mask mandate for vaccinated students and faculty.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Officials at Tidewater Community College tell us that they're encouraging their students to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Our goal is to provide as much info as we can on how to stay safe during the pandemic. How to stay safe within our classrooms, and just encouraging everyone to take the vaccine, we think it is the safest route, and by doing so, those who are can go in and out without masks," said Marketing Director Naima Ford.

But she added that the vaccine is not required to return to school.

"Every decision for vaccines is up to us as individuals. It’s a health decision that that person has to make. Not forcing our students to take the vaccine I think is respecting the community wishes, the faculty wishes, the student wishes," Ford said.

She echoed the statement released by Virginia Community College Systems on May 25th reading, "we will not require an individual to be vaccinated to attend or work at one of our colleges."

"We expected it, we're trying to stay in line with what the governor and CDC have said," Ford said, staying within the lines when discussing school expectations for the vaccines ruling. The statement from VCCS cites a number of factors specific to community colleges in the decision.

"The lack of residence halls on community college campuses make this issue different for us than it is for universities," reads the statement. 

The statement also said community colleges’ focus on short-term training and credentialing programs means mandating proof of vaccination could impact student enrollment.

"We have a lot of hands-on instruction that is needed. We want to get people educated and get the economy back going with skilled workers in these jobs."

TCC officials tell us they have gotten 40 percent of students back on campus, outpacing the initial goal of 25 percent for the summer. They hope to be up to 50 percent by the fall and 75 percent come springtime.