2 more big California districts just mandated student COVID vaccinations

Oakland and Piedmont USD follow Los Angeles in requiring vaccines as feds cover mask mandate fines in Florida
By: | September 23, 2021
(AdobeStock)(AdobeStock)

Oakland USD and a neighboring district became the first Northern California school systems to require eligible students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before the end of the year.

Oakland USD’s school board voted 5-1 early Thursday in favor of a vaccine mandate with a deadline no earlier than Jan. 1, 2022, so as not to disrupt the fall semester, the district announced.

“The research is clear, and all credible medical and public health experts agree: vaccines are the number one way to prevent people from getting COVID, from getting very sick if they catch COVID, and to help all of us get out of the pandemic,” the district said in its announcement. “It won’t happen until the vast majority of us across the country are vaccinated.

“California has the lowest COVID rates in the country, and our high vaccination rates are a big part of why.”

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and her team will now begin working out the logistics, using Los Angeles USD’s mandate as a model. Oakland USD students will likely have time to get their required vaccination, if not before, then during winter break.

Piedmont USD, just to Oakland’s east, also passed a student vaccine requirement Wednesday night while Berkeley USD’s school board considered a mandate but did not vote on it, KRON4.com reported.

On Sept. 21, Urban Discovery Schools, a charter system in San Diego, added COVID vaccinations to the list of vaccines students are required to receive. “We are demonstrating our steadfast belief that this additional vaccination requirement is in the best interest of student health, well-being and learning,” Chief Executive Officer Shawn T. Loescher said in a message to the community.

A statewide vaccine mandate for eligible California students is also being discussed by state officials, according to published reports.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said Thursday that officials are looking at the data as they consider how to best protect the state’s most vulnerable populations, according to reports in The Hill and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Feds cover mask mandate fines

One Florida district embroiled in a battle over mask mandates with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is the first to receive aid from a federal program specially designed to counteract state-imposed funding cuts.

The School Board of Alachua County will be the first recipient—to the tune of $147,719—of funding from the recently launched Project to Support America’s Families and Educators grant program. Over the summer, the governor withheld funding for the salaries of district school board members who voted to impose a mask mandate despite a state ban on such requirements.

“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “With these grants, we’re making sure schools and communities across the country that are committed to safely returning to in-person learning know that we have their backs.”

Schools are also authorized to cover these penalties with American Rescue Plan funds.

“Students deserve the opportunity to return to school in-person safely this fall and our nation’s superintendents must have not only the authority to make the decisions about what that reopening looks like but also freedom from unnecessarily political and punitive retaliation from their state leaders,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association. “Superintendents bear the ultimate responsibility and accountability for those decisions.”

Also this week, the department’s Office for Civil Rights added Texas to a list of six states that are now under investigation for banning school mask mandates. The agency is looking into whether those bans violate disabled students’ rights to equal access to in-person instruction by putting them at risk of more serious COVID infections.