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All eligible LAUSD students would have to be vaccinated by January under board proposal

A girl rolls up a sleeve as a person in a face mask and body covering points a finger.
Nurse Lynn-Ti Allen points out the area to sit and be monitored for any side effects after giving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to Katherine Baltazar,12, a seventh-grader at San Fernando Middle School.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

All Los Angeles public school children 12 and older would have to be fully vaccinated by January to enter campus — sooner for students involved in many extracurricular activities — under a proposal to be voted on Thursday by the Board of Education.

If approved as expected, the requirement would catapult the L.A. Unified School District into the forefront of school systems nationwide with the most sweeping and aggressive safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation’s second-largest school system has moved faster and more comprehensively than most others, testing all students and employees for infection every week, requiring masks indoors and outdoors and ordering employees to get vaccinated.

The student vaccine mandate is scheduled to be debated and voted on during a special and quickly scheduled school board meeting.

Under the proposal, the first students affected would be those involved in activities such as sports. Those students who are 12 or older would have to receive a first vaccine dose no later than Oct. 3 and a second dose no later than Oct. 31.

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All students 12 and older would have to receive a first dose no later than Nov. 21 and a second dose no later than Dec. 19. The final day of classes before winter break is Dec. 17.

Students return to class on Jan. 11. By Jan 10, proof of vaccination would have to be “uploaded and approved in LAUSD’s Daily Pass program except for those students with qualified and approved exemptions and conditional admissions,” the proposal says.

As more than 1,000 schools reopen amid rising case counts, the district’s massive coronavirus testing effort is central to keeping schools safe.

The Daily Pass allows a student onto campus and, up to now, has tracked weekly coronavirus test results. Parents and students also use the pass to self-report whether a student has symptoms.

Vaccine exemptions could be obtained for documented medical reasons.

The resolution also stipulates that younger students would have to receive their first vaccine dose no later than 30 days after their 12th birthday and their second dose no later than eight weeks after that birthday.

In citing the importance of acting now, the resolution states that the school system plays a fundamental role in efforts “to safeguard the educational, health and safety needs of Los Angeles Unified’s students and community as a whole within its geographic boundaries.”

The resolution notes recent increases in coronavirus rates due to the Delta variant and says: “The percentage of children hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 has been disproportionately rising, indicating that children are at a greater risk from contracting the Delta variant due to high transmission rates with possibility of long-term symptoms from COVID-19.”

In a sign that school-based COVID-19 safety measures are showing promise, fewer students and staff were exposed to the coronavirus in these outbreaks.

The disease presents “a material threat to the health and safety of all students within the LAUSD community, and is a further threat to the successful return to continuous in-person instruction,” according to the resolution.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for individuals 16 and older. Those 12 and older can receive the vaccine under a federal emergency use authorization.

The L.A. Unified mandate does not distinguish between full approval and emergency use authorization: It applies to all 12 and older — although full FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine is widely expected in the coming weeks for those 12 and older.

There is little doubt that the resolution will be approved. In interviews last week, a majority of board members already have said they either favored or were leaning toward such a requirement.

The special meeting was posted shortly after the school board emerged from a closed session Wednesday for which the only listed item was “anticipated litigation.”

L.A. Unified has been sued multiple times over its COVID-19 safety measures. A vaccine mandate also could bring a lawsuit, district officials have acknowledged to The Times.

To date, none of the litigation has thwarted L.A. Unified from such steps as ordering all students and employees to be tested each week for the coronavirus and requiring all employees to be vaccinated. The board has yet to discuss a vaccine mandate in open session, but it has apparently come up in at least two closed sessions, according to district sources.

A district statement on Wednesday foreshadowed likely approval: “The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education will vote at their next meeting on whether to mandate vaccines for all eligible students. Science clearly shows that vaccinations are an essential part of protecting our communities. Further details will be forthcoming after the vote.”

School board member Nick Melvoin on Wednesday left no doubt where he stands.

“Our goal is to keep kids and teachers as safe as possible and in the classroom,” Melvoin said. “A medical and scientific consensus has emerged that the best way to protect everyone in our schools and communities is for all those who are eligible to get vaccinated. This policy is the best way to make that happen.”

Melvoin also has noted “inaction at the state level” as a reason for L.A. Unified to to take action on its own.

Education officials across the state are beginning to grapple with mandating student COVID-19 vaccination, a measure that could help prevent school infections and keep classrooms open, but would probably ignite pushback.

Culver City Unified was the first to approve a student mandate. Oakland Unified was to take up the matter at its Wednesday school board meeting.


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