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LA Unified students’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate in question

The Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the largest school districts in the nation to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students, now faces a crucial decision about whether to stick with its requirement to fall 2022 or align with the state, which has delayed his reign for at least a year.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that he was suspending a state mandate that was due to take effect before the next 2022-2023 academic year. Also on Thursday, an influential Democratic lawmaker said he would drop his bill in favor of even tougher inoculation rules. The California Department of Public Health said the requirement for students will be pushed back to at least July 1, 2023, as it awaits the Food and Drug Administration for full authorization of vaccines for children 12 and older.

LA Unified had delayed executing its term until the start of the 2022 fall school year. It was unclear Friday whether the board would delay its policy again. Throughout the pandemic, the school board has implemented one of the strictest pandemic school safety rules in the country, including weekly coronavirus testing.

School board president Kelly Gonez said Friday she was “disappointed to see the state push back its schedule” because vaccines protect the community and only about 67% of California children ages 12 to 17 are vaccinated. She said the school board “will shortly review the changes made by the state and make decisions about our own requirements. Throughout the pandemic, we have had to adapt to unpredictable changes in COVID conditions, and that challenge continues. »

Supt. Alberto Carvalho is visiting family in Portugal over spring break and was unavailable for comment. School resumes on Monday.

Board member Jackie Goldberg favors keeping the fall term because it has been effective in increasing the district’s immunization rate and keeping schools open.

“It works. We’ve had very few outbreaks, very few, and none were large enough to close schools,” Goldberg said. “That’s because our kids are vaccinated and we’re testing everyone every week. Is it expensive? Yes. But the same goes for getting sick and losing people who work for us to sickness, just like getting children sick and losing them to sickness. I don’t So I don’t see any reason for us to consider changing and I don’t believe we will.

The board had delayed the term to avoid massive disruption to students. Under the policy, unvaccinated students would not be allowed on campus and thousands would have transferred to the district’s independent study program, City of Angels, which was already struggling with overcapacity. Classrooms and schedules are said to have been turned upside down in the middle of the school year.

Goldberg said it was different now. The district has created six online schools, increasing capacity and providing more options for parents who don’t want their children vaccinated, she said.

Board member Nick Melvoin said the matter needed to be taken up. He called the state’s postponement a sign of good policymaking at a time when districts are trying to navigate “the biggest education disruption in a century without a playbook.”

When the board established the mandate in October, it did so in part because it believed the state would follow suit and make the COVID-19 vaccine a mandatory school vaccination and that full clearance for children from 12 and older was imminent, Melvoin said.

Now, with Sen. Richard Pan’s (D-Sacramento) legislation no longer in effect and the state’s timeline delayed, Melvoin said the board will have to discuss whether to align with the guidelines of the state. Previously, he said, he had advocated for the district to align with the state to avoid patchwork policies that make it difficult for families to navigate.

“I still think it makes sense to line up, and I’m going to push at least some exploration of what that would look like for LA Unified, because I think we really have to consider the consequences of going our own way right now. for students and families. “, said Melvoin.

He added that if the district aligned with the state, it wouldn’t be a loss.

“The fact that we have 87% of children who are in compliance right now is huge, and I don’t think that would have happened without putting our stick in the ground that says vaccines are safe, they’re effective and best way to keep students in school,” he said.

In a brief statement after Pan withdrew her legislation, United Teachers Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz said the union “will continue to support vaccination mandates for employees and students.” It was unclear whether the teachers’ union supported Newsom’s delayed schedule.

Los Angeles County Superintendent. Debra Duardo said in a statement Friday that she supports the governor’s decision to delay the requirement because it would give school districts more time.

“Enforcing a COVID vaccination mandate for students before the 2022-2023 school year is logistically unfeasible and would have wasted valuable school time for students,” Duardo said.

Los Angeles Times

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