By Jose Herrera
Signal Staff Writer
In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state will implement a vaccination requirement for students in their grade span K-6 and 7-12 starting in the term following full approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 and older by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The regulations would take effect at the start of the following term, meaning either Jan. 1 or July 1, once the FDA gives its full approval of a vaccine for children 5 and older, according to Gov. Newsom’s office.
The announcement has left leaders at local elementary school districts with mixed feelings. However, they are taking steps that they feel are correct to ensure the education of their students.
In the Newhall School District, board members unanimously approved a resolution requesting the governor reconsider or rescind the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public and private K-12 students as a requirement for in-person instruction.
“It should be a parental choice,” said Jeff Pelzel, superintendent of the Newhall district. “Parents have the right to choose whether their children get vaccinated.”
According to Pelzel, the board received three in-person comments from parents against the resolution and 13 parents in favor of it during the last board meeting.
Additionally, they received more than 30 emails from parents in support of the resolution.
Brian Walters, president of the Newhall district board, said the resolution was not to take an anti-vax stance, but rather to address concerns from parents and ensure all children receive proper education in the classroom.
They also worry, once the state mandate is in effect, it would disrupt learning for students or result in parents removing their children from public school.
“We already have practices in place to protect our students, staff, faculty and all our stakeholders without fully vaccinating our students,” Walters said.
Pelzel also said the district does not offer on-site vaccination clinics at the time, but they do provide community members with information on how to get vaccinated at the nearest clinic.
In the Saugus Union School District, the board has not passed such a resolution.
However, the Saugus district has received in-person comments at the last board meeting. Superintendent Colleen Hawkins said the district received several forms of communication from parents on both sides of the issue.
She said parents requested the board address the issue, and in the future, the board will possibly discuss the matter.
The Saugus district also contracted with Albertsons Pharmacy between Nov. 15 and June 10, 2022, to provide COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the district’s schools during off-school hours.
“We are providing support to our families just like when we provided COVID testing in the spring,” Hawkins said. “We are providing an option for families.”
The Castaic Union School District also received both positive and negative feedback from parents on the announcement of Newsom’s mandate.
Superintendent Steve Doyle said they would prefer to give parents a choice. The Castaic district created a subcommittee that will explore and possibly write a similar resolution to that of the Newhall district, he added.
“I have real concerns (about the mandate),” Doyle said. “We have a concern with staffing just like any other district. It (the mandate) presents hardships for employees. Parents will be forced to choose whether they vaccinate their children.”
Sulphur Springs Union School District representatives could not be reached for comment.