Los Angeles Public School Students Must Get COVID-19 Vaccine When Offered To Return
East College Prep High School senior Jocelyn Hernandez follows a remote Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus class while sitting in a community garden near her home, August 14, 2020 in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

When COVID-19 vaccines become available for children, students enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District must be inoculated before returning to the classroom, Superintendent Austin Beutner said earlier this week.

Beutner revealed the policy during a virtual question-and-answer session with students in a pre-recorded briefing.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Beutner said the requirement would be “no different than students who are vaccinated for measles or mumps,” comparing the policy to people who “are tested for tuberculosis before they come on campus.”

“That’s the best way we know to keep all on a campus safe,” he said, adding: “Families will always have the option for a child to stay in online learning and therefore not be on the campus.”

The district canceled in-person learning in March. Beutner said the current wave of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths that has hit Greater L.A. has further hampered the district’s ability to reopen classrooms.

L.A. Unified is the nation’s second-largest public education system, with an enrollment of more than 600,000. Beutner said he hopes they all will have been immunized a year from now.

As the Times recently reported:

But a vaccine will not be in the arms of students for some time. The two vaccines that have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration so far were tested almost exclusively in adults. The clinical trial of the shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech included 153 16- and 17-year-olds, and some of the experts who reviewed the data for the FDA said there weren’t enough teens to determine whether the vaccine is safe for that age group, let alone for younger children. Children and young adults also are likely to be among the last to be vaccinated because they face a lower risk for a severe case of COVID-19.

Beutner said Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan “falls well short of what’s needed to help our schools,” calling on state officials to establish reopening standards. Critics of the governor’s strategy say it would allow more affluent districts with a predominately white student body to reopen sooner than larger, more urban school systems.

“The governor’s plan does not address the disproportionate impact the virus is having on low-income communities of color,” Beutner said.

“The families we serve are more likely to be essential workers or those for whom work is essential, to put a roof overhead, or provide food for their family,” he added. “They don’t have a choice to work from home.”

Beutner said the district would continue to provide free COVID-19 tests for families of students and employees.

On Thursday, L.A. Unified corrected reports that the school board voted to authorize the district to take legal action against the state over Newsom’s reopening plan.

The L.A. Daily News reports, the district indicated there was an error on the closed session agenda. It issued a statement explaining, “there was no intention for any type of action against the State of California, state entities and public officials related to the state’s ‘Safe Schools for All’ framework. This was in error as the report should have referred only to reimbursement for food relief.”

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