L.A. Schools Postpone Vaccine Mandate for Students Until Fall 2022

The mandate would have required students 12 and over to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10 or switch to online learning. Now, unvaccinated students will have to be tested frequently starring in January.,

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Los Angeles schools put off a student vaccine mandate until fall 2022.

High school students in Los Angeles wore masks when classes started in August. Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

Dec. 15, 2021Updated 10:54 a.m. ET

The school board in Los Angeles decided on Tuesday to put off until the next academic year a plan to require coronavirus vaccination for students 12 and older who attend class in person.

Under a plan that the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education approved in September, those students would have needed to show proof of full vaccination by Jan. 10. Otherwise they would be transferred to an online study program.

But on Tuesday, the board voted to delay the policy’s start date until the fall 2022.

When the district first announced the vaccine mandate, about 80,000 students who were eligible for vaccination had not yet been inoculated. As of last week, the figure was about 34,000, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The school district said on Tuesday that delaying the rule would allow further time to “offer educational opportunities” to vaccine-hesitant families. It also said that more than 86 percent of students in the district had already complied with the mandate, and that others were in the process of registering their vaccine paperwork.

Starting in January, the district will require all staff members and students to undergo weekly coronavirus testing, the district said on Tuesday. Beginning in February, only unvaccinated students will have to be tested regularly.

Los Angeles schools serve more than 600,000 students, making the school district the nation’s second largest. The vaccine mandate would apply to about 460,000 of them, including students at independent charter schools using the district’s buildings.

In New York City’s public school system, the nation’s largest, a vaccine mandate for most employees compelled tens of thousands of Department of Education employees to get at least one dose. Mayor Bill de Blasio said in September that the city’s focus for the time being would be on getting students back into classrooms, not on requiring them to be vaccinated.

The city did, however, require students who take part in activities in which the risk of spreading the virus is high — including playing basketball, football or volleyball — to get at least one dose by their first day of competitive play. Los Angeles schools require vaccination for any school-sponsored extracurricular activity, including sports, drama and music.

The state of California has also imposed a vaccine mandate for students that could take effect as soon as next fall, adding the coronavirus to the list of diseases that students must be vaccinated against, like measles and mumps. But the state mandate is contingent on the Food and Drug Administration granting the vaccines full approval for pediatric use, and not just the emergency use authorization that is now in effect.

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