Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that California will require kids to get the COVID-19 vaccine to come to school.
Newsom said all students, elementary through high school age, would be required to receive the vaccine upon their age demographic receiving final approval from the FDA for the vaccine. The governor stated there would be exemptions for medical and personal/religious beliefs.
“I believe we will be the first state in America to move forward with this mandate and requirement, but I do not believe by any stretch of the imagination we will be the last state. In fact, I anticipate other states to follow suit, as well.”
Newsom said that in the state of California, 63.5% of those ages 12 to 17 have been vaccinated, but added that the state is not where it needs to be.
“And so, we hope this encourages folks to get vaccinated,” said Newsom.
The state has already announced that by Oct. 15 all school employees in the state would be required to either show proof of vaccination or be tested once per week, which caught a number of local school districts off-guard.
“Following existing statute, full approval of ages 12+ corresponds to grades 7-12, and full approval of ages 5-11 corresponds to grades K-6,” read a press release from the governor’s office. “Students who are under the age of full approval, but within the grade span, will be required to be vaccinated once they reach the age of full approval.”
The requirement will take effect at the start of the term following full approval of that grade span, to be defined as Jan. 1 or July 1, whichever comes first.
“Based on current information, the requirement is expected to apply to grades 7-12 starting on July 1, 2022,” the release added. “However, local health jurisdictions and local education agencies are encouraged to implement requirements ahead of a statewide requirement based on their local circumstances.”
Newsom said schools already require vaccines for measles, mumps and more, and said the requirement is proof that vaccines work.
“This is about keeping our kids safe and healthy,” said Newsom via Twitter.
Castaic Union School District Superintendent Steve Doyle said there had been rumblings of this decision for a while.
“The news is not a complete surprise,” said Doyle. “We have been aware of conversations in Sacramento for some time now.”
Although likely going to require another large look at the logistics of the district, Doyle added that they will continue to do what they have done throughout the entire pandemic: continue to be in compliance with the health and safety guidelines issued by the state and county.
“Our hope is that the mandatory vaccination requirements go into effect no sooner than July 1, 2022, to minimize disruptions during this school year.”
Sulphur Springs Union School District governing board President Ken Chase echoed the same sentiment on Friday.
Saugus Union School District Superintendent Colleen Hawkins said her district will do much of the same, and continue to work with the community to keep people healthy for in-person learning.
“We are mindful that vaccines for elementary-aged children are on the horizon,” said Hawkins. “And we understand that the governor’s mandate will become effective once the vaccines have full FDA authorization.”
Newhall School District Superintendent Jeff Pelzel said that while his school district would also be continuing forward by staying in compliance, he did worry about what this meant in terms of the district’s staff and families.
“I do foresee this will cause families to seek alternative educational options, whether that be homeschooling or something else,” said Pelzel. “Or what is going to happen is families will transition to our independent study program.”
“I appreciate the intent and desire. However, these (mandates) are going to create some potential tough, tough challenges for school districts,” he added.
Cherise Moore, president of the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board, emphasized that no immediate action is set to be taken — a sentiment expressed by many other administrators following Friday’s announcement.
Mandatory vaccination status had been implemented by some other districts around Los Angeles County, but it had not come up in the Hart board’s discussions before Friday, said Moore.
“My reaction is that there’s no immediate action that will be taken by anyone, and I think everyone, or at least I need to, take a breath and ponder what this all means,” said Moore. “What are the implications for our children and their safety, as well as the safety of our staff?”
“Over the last year and a half, we have seen the immeasurable emotional and educational impact the pandemic has had on youth,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said upon hearing the news. “Ultimately, each parent and school district knows their own students’ needs best and I hope there is ongoing collaboration at the local level regarding the governor’s proposed policy.”