All eligible children attending Los Angeles Unified public schools – the nation’s second largest school district – will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of the calendar year, the school board of education has voted.
In a special meeting held Thursday, the Los Angeles Unified School Board decided a mandate was appropriate based on the sudden surge of the virus brought about by the Delta variant and data showing lower rates of infection and hospitalization among those who are vaccinated.
The proposal approved Thursday requires all eligible students 12 and older to receive their first vaccine dose by no later than Nov. 21, 2021, and their second dose by no later than Dec. 19, 2021. Students who participate in in-person extracurricular activities, including sports, face an earlier deadline of Oct. 3 for a first dose of the vaccine and a second dose no later than Oct. 31.
The district, which serves more than 600,000 students, already mandates the vaccine for teachers and staff, requires face coverings to be worn by all, and requires screening tests for all students and staff weekly. Classrooms have been outfitted with enhanced ventilation systems in an effort to decrease the spread of the virus.
District spokesperson Shannon Haber was not able to provide a number on exactly how many students will be affected by Thursday’s decision, but noted than many students have already been inoculated. Covid-19 vaccines are being provided free of charge to every eligible Californian, and mobile vaccine clinics are visiting every middle and high school in the district.
The mandate will apply to all vaccine eligible students who are going to school in-person and will allow those with “qualified and approved exemptions” to opt out, though the board did not specify the conditions. Students who decline the vaccine and have no exemptions can participate in the Independent Study Program (ISP). Currently, about 15,000 students are enrolled in the ISP, according to board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin.
During Thursday’s meeting, Dr. Richard Pan, a state senator, pediatrician, and district parent advocated for the measure, pushing for “community immunity” to protect the kids that are too young to be eligible for the vaccine. He praised LAUSD for “leading the way” and ���following the science to ensure schools are safe."