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Los Angeles school district EXTENDS Covid vaccine mandate deadline by a month

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has given its staff an additional month to fulfill its COVID-19 vaccine mandate because thousands of workers have not yet met the requirement.

Employees now have until November 15 to be vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s or Moderna‘s Covid vaccine, but they must report at least one dose by October 15 – the original deadline – to continue working in-person.

About one in five employees had not yet provided proof of their vaccination as of September 27, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

The public school district is also one of the only school districts in the country to require vaccination for students ages 12 and up. Students must be fully vaccinated by late December to attend in-person class in January.

So far, high vaccination rates and other safety measures such as weekly testing appear to be keeping cases low in the district with a test positivity rate of 0.1 percent as of Tuesday.

The Los Angeles school district has extended its vaccination deadline by a month, as many teachers and staff are not yet vaccinated. Pictured: A Los Angeles student receives a Pfizer dose at a local YMCA, August 2021

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second-largest in the country, serving more than 600,000 students.

Like other districts in California, LAUSD has had a vaccine requirement for teachers and staff in place since mid-August.

LAUSD’s mandate goes beyond the state requirement, however, by mandating vaccination without an option for weekly testing in place of the jabs.

This district is also one of the first in the nation to require vaccinations for eligible students, older than age 12.

But thus far, LAUSD has faced challenges in fully implementing its staff mandate.

The requirement stated that staff had until October 15 to be fully vaccinated, meaning they’d received the second of two Pfizer or Moderna doses.

Yet, as of September 27, about one in five employees hadn’t yet provided evidence of their vaccination.

This could represent ‘well over 10,000 people,’ according to the LA Times.

Those 10,000 employees now have more time to get their shots: the deadline for a second dose has been extended a month to November 15.

‘We don’t want people to be out of jobs,’ interim superintendent Megan Reilly told the LA Times. ‘Our employees are one of the strongest assets that we have.’

Still, she asserted that ‘we’re absolutely adamant about keeping our schools the safest possible environment – and vaccinations are clearly the pathway to keeping them safe.’

LAUSD staff have time to learn about the vaccines and make an educated decision, Reilly said – but their time is limited.

‘People have to be vaccinated or they’re not going to be part of the district,’ she told the LA Times.

‘People have to be vaccinated or they’re not going to be part of the district,’ LAUSD’s interim superintendent said. Pictured: Students wait in line to get vaccinated at their high school in El Sereno, east of Los Angeles, August 2021

Representatives of the LAUSD teachers union, SEIU Local 99, negotiated the extended deadline with the district.

Per this new agreement, staff have until November 15 to receive their second dose – but they must receive at least one dose by October 15 to continue working.

Staff who do not report at least one vaccine dose by October 15 will be placed on paid leave until October 31, giving them an additional two weeks to get inoculated.

‘The extension of the vaccination requirement timeline will ensure that we can continue to maintain a safe and healthy environment for students and staff and minimize disruption of services as we continue to face the challenges of the pandemic,’ the union said in a statement.

LAUSD has not reported updated vaccination numbers since September 27.

The district also has not reported a number of staffers who have applied for – or been approved for – vaccine exemptions, which could have religious or medical grounds.

Any staffer with approved vaccine exemption would need to change their responsibilities so that they’re no longer in direct contact with others, the LA Times reported.

Some staffers have already been reassigned to the City of Angels program, which offers online and independent instruction to students.

LAUSD has seen low Covid case numbers this fall, with a current test positivity rate of 0.1% (above)

LAUSD also has not reported updates on how many students are in compliance with the district’s vaccine mandate for students.

The requirement will first apply to students over age 12 participating in sports and other in-person extracurriculars. They must be fully vaccinated by October 31.

Then, all other eligible students must be fully vaccinated by late December in order to attend in-person class in January.

Despite challenges with enforcing the vaccine requirement for staff, LAUSD has faced criticism from parents who wanted all teachers to be vaccinated sooner.

‘I will consider having my kid do “Zoom school” from home if it turns out that his teacher (or anyone else he has indoor contact with at his elementary school) has not gotten vaccinated by Oct 15th,’ LAUSD parent Torr Leonard told the LA Times. 

In addition to vaccine requirements, LAUSD has other Covid safety measures in place – including mask requirements and weekly testing for students and staff.

According to the district’s Covid dashboard, there are 772 active cases as of Tuesday, out of hundreds of thousands of staff and students – and just one of those cases has been linked to in-school transmission.

The district’s current Covid test positivity rate is just 0.1 percent.

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