A small Los Angeles County school district will require older students to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they qualify, the district principal said in a letter to families this week.
Although California educators have already been mandated to be vaccinated or otherwise tested regularly, the Culver City Unified School District is believed to be the first in the state — and possibly the nation — to require students ages 12 and older to be vaccinated.
More mandates could come after the Food and Drug Administration gives full approval to the vaccine and allows children under 12 to receive it. Both decisions are expected in the coming weeks.
The district also expanded masking requirements for some students and staff and will require weekly Covid tests for both students and employees, regardless of their vaccine status.
The announcement came just before the start of the school year in the district on Thursday and amid nationwide uproar over how children — including millions who are too young to qualify for vaccines — can be safely returned to the classroom as the Delta variant of the coronavirus is raging.
New cases and increasing hospitalizations across the country have thrown a wrench into what many hoped would be a fresh start, especially in California, where many students had spent more than a year studying at home.
In California, successfully reopening schools has also become a political imperative for Governor Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall fueled in part by parents’ frustrations over prolonged school closures. In recent weeks, he has drafted the mandates for vaccines and indoor masks in schools and other workplaces as sensible, science-backed precautions that his main rivals, such as conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, would immediately scrap.
California’s largest teacher unions supported the state’s vaccine mandate for educators, although some, like the great and powerful United Teachers Los Angeles, said other measures were needed, pointing to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s demand for students and staff. to be tested regularly.
Los Angeles Unified is one of the largest school districts in the nation with more than 628,000 students spread across 710 square miles.
Culver City Unified, on the other hand, has about 7,100 students. According to local public health data, approximately 87 percent of Culver City’s 35,400 residents over the age of 12 have been vaccinated, one of the highest rates in Los Angeles County.
School administrators were working to figure out the best way to administer the required tests, the district said, and proof of vaccination should be provided by Nov. 19.
“As we’ve all learned, we may need to change quickly to adapt to new information,” Quoc Tran, the district superintendent, said in the message to families. “We are excited to have everyone back for a safe school experience.”