By AMY TAXIN and JOHN ANTCZAK
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles board of education is expected to vote Thursday on whether to require students 12 and older to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend class on campus in the nation’s second-largest school district.
The proposal, scheduled for discussion at a special afternoon meeting, would be one of the most aggressive measures taken by a major U.S. school district to protect children from infections.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which enrolls more than 600,000 mostly Latino students, already tests all students and employees every week, requires masking indoors and outdoors and has ordered employees to be vaccinated. Under the plan, students age 12 and up who participate in sports and other activities would need to be fully vaccinated by the end of October; those who aren’t would have until Dec. 19.
“Although LAUSD has implemented the highest safety measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at schools, vaccination of all eligible and non-exempt students provides the strongest protection to the health and safety of all students and staff in the LAUSD school communities,” the superintendent’s office said in a report to the board, adding that a recent rise in pediatric hospitalizations also spurred the move.
The vote comes as new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have been decreasing but the rate of transmission remains high, according to the county Department of Public Health. The department is expected to provide an update on COVID-19 cases and schools later on Thursday.
Most schools have not mandated vaccines for students. A nearby school district in Culver City, California is requiring vaccinations for students 12 and up, and officials in Decatur, Georgia, are also considering doing so.
In Los Angeles Unified, a significant portion of the district’s students come from low-income families and more than 73% are Latino, a segment of the population that has lagged in getting vaccinated. The district’s campuses were shuttered for most of the last school year, with students learning online, because of the pandemic.
The district enrolls students in kindergarten through 12th grade and offers early education and adult education.
The proposal would require students age 12 and up who are participating in sports and other activities to receive a first dose of vaccine by Oct. 3 and a second dose by Oct. 31. All other students 12 and up would have to get a first dose by Nov. 21 and the second dose no later than Dec. 19.
Currently, the final day of classes before winter break is Dec. 17. Classes resume Jan. 11.
Some parents are eager to see all eligible students vaccinated. Lucy Rimalower, who has a kindergartener in the district, said she is relieved to see officials taking steps to try to protect her son until he is old enough to get his shot, and that also helps protect her parents, who are in their 60s and 70s and help her with child care.
“This feels like following the precedent of all the other vaccines over time that have helped us to have a safer school environment, that lets us feel like it’s safe to send our kids to school without getting chicken pox, polio, the mumps, measles, rubella, you name it,” she said.
Other parents oppose the move. A flier announcing a protest for Thursday afternoon circulated on social media.
United Teachers Los Angeles supports the proposal and has urged the board to mandate student vaccinations since teachers were required to get the shots.
“With so many educators being parents as well, we understand that many questions and concerns exist around the vaccine, but these questions should not take away from the critical step that will keep our schools safer and help protect the most vulnerable among us, including children too young to be vaccinated,” Cecily Myart-Cruz, the union’s president said in a statement.
A majority of board members said in interviews last week that they either favored or were leaning toward requiring student vaccinations, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Taxin reported from Orange County, California. Associated Press writer Jeff Amy in Atlanta contributed.
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