OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A day after Oakland Unified School District officials on Wednesday night approved a COVID-19 health mandate that will require all eligible students ages 12 and older to be fully immunized, parents and children teachers reacted to the decision.
The district – which serves approximately 50,000 students – was the first in northern California to require student immunizations, joining mandates already in place for public school systems in Los Angeles – the second largest in the United States. – and Culver City.
The Hayward Unified School District Board of Directors also approved a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all students ages 12 and older at their Wednesday night meeting, it was announced Thursday afternoon.
Under the HUSD order, students eligible for vaccines must show proof of vaccination by December 17, 2021, the last day of class before the district’s winter recess.
Most public school students in the Piedmont Unified School District are now also required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, following a vote Wednesday night by the school board.
Vaccine-eligible Piedmont Unified students have until Nov. 17 to provide proof that they have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine, according to revised school board policy Wednesday night. The Piedmont Unified School Board voted 5-0 in favor of the policy.
The Oakland Unified School District Board of Directors on Wednesday night approved a vaccination mandate for students 12 and older, excluding students exempted by law or with a personal creed exemption.
“This will keep our kids more in school,” said Megan Pillsbury, vice president of the Piedmont Unified School Board. “And that will protect them and keep them and our staff safe.”
Piedmont Unified students who become eligible after Wednesday have eight weeks after being eligible to show that they are fully immunized. Students who are not vaccinated and do not have an exemption from a licensed physician will be transferred to independent studies, as per policy.
Students who receive an exemption from a doctor must be tested for COVID-19 once a week.
California health officials were watching closely as they considered rolling out similar measures statewide.
As for the effective date of the mandate, OUSD officials appear to be heading towards January.
The measure was passed by a 5-1 margin, with board chair Shanthi Gonzales abstaining. It requires all students 12 and over to be fully immunized with exemptions for medical or religious reasons. A weekly test alternative was not part of the mandate, at least for the students. Teachers and staff will be allowed to test instead of getting vaccinated.
According to information shared by Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell, about 34% of African American students in the district have been vaccinated and 55% of Latino students.
Gonzales was concerned about the message the warrant sends to parents who are reluctant to get their children immunized.
“My concern is to send these families a message that they are no longer welcome and that they are no longer allowed to come to school,” Gonzales told the East Bay Times.
The board ordered Johnson-Trammell to return in October to discuss and present plans for the application of the new rule, including when to start enforcing it.
The top California health official said Thursday he was monitoring decisions by local school boards and considering a mandate for in-person learning, but no decision has yet been made.
When asked at a press conference Thursday morning whether the state would require eligible schoolchildren to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend classes in person, the California Secretary of Health and Human Services said that there was “no final action or decision” at this time.
But Dr Mark Ghaly said requiring students to be vaccinated to go to school was nothing new.
“We are following the experience in Los Angeles, understand what it means for students and families, staff as well, and watch other counties consider the same,” he said. “So this conversation takes place. “
“If they say that students should be given vaccines and should be required statewide, that would definitely help us and make everyone understand the importance of this,” the OUSD spokesperson said. , John Sasaki.
Details of the application, exemptions and how the district will monitor immunization status are under discussion.
“At the moment, there are no defined parameters on what it will look like, how it will come into effect and how it will be enforced,” Sasaki said.
Some parents say this is the latest example of local officials going too far.
“Someone else is making a decision for my child and I don’t have a say,” Oakland parent Risha Wallace said. “I really want the students and teachers to be safe, but at the same time, they are our children and we should be able to make decisions for them as we see fit.”
Assembly member Buffy Wicks is leading the charge, with new legislation next year for a statewide vaccine term.
“This would, in my opinion, add one more vaccine to the long list of vaccines needed for a global pandemic that we are emerging from and surviving. For me, that’s the obvious next step and that’s what I think our public health officials are going to look at as well, ”Wicks said.
Several other school boards in the San Francisco Bay Area are considering similar measures, including Unified County of West Contra Costa and Unified County of Berkeley, as schools attempt to track in-person education during the pandemic.
Hours before the OSUD meeting, teachers in the district complained about the lack of COVID security in their classrooms.
“We believe the district has the funds to run a weekly test now at each school site to keep things as safe as possible for students, staff and families,” said Sarah Goudy, OUSD teacher. , to KPIX 5.
Testing is at the top of the Oakland Education Association’s list of concerns. This is currently offered on-site at 10 campuses, but teachers would like it to be extended to each campus and offered weekly.
“In my school, REACH Academy, we have had over 30 positive cases of COVID,” said teacher Megan Bumpus. “The more cases you have, the more tests you get, but we need those tests to be consistent.”
District officials say they are satisfied with the current testing program.
“We are very confident that the testing procedures and protocols we have in place are working,” said Sasaki. “We actually saw a pretty sharp drop in numbers from the first few weeks of school.”
KPIX cameras found one of 10 test sites open and equipped on Wednesday. But Oakland Unified says it faces the same challenge as all school districts and it’s a testing shortage. County and state supplies have been inconsistent, meaning he’s had to limit the number of take-home tests he can give staff members.
“We have orders for the state to give us more tests and we look forward to having them and distributing them to schools,” Sasaki said.
The union’s other demand is better air filtration.
“Industrial strength HEPA filtration in every large space,” said Bumpus. “And we also need additional resources for outdoor dining.”
Again, the district says it is working on this and is pointing its dashboard of COVID cases as evidence that the efforts are producing safer schools. There were 30 cases of students across the district last week, up from more than 100 in the first week of the school year.
“As it stands now, we feel like we are moving in the right direction in terms of where we are with the testing, with the results we are seeing and the number of cases we are dealing with. Sasaki said.
Kenny Choi contributed to this story.