On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to delay the system-wide student vaccination mandate by over a year following both similar statewide changes happening and the Board not wanting many families to choose between in-person classes and online classes so soon.
Mandatory student vaccinations in LA public schools were approved in September 2021, mere weeks before the entire state followed suit. The mandate that all students were to be vaccinated was originally scheduled with a January 2022 deadline, but that was moved to the fall to allow more time for students and to align with the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year. However, falling COVID-19 rates in 2022 made many rethink plans of mandatory vaccinations, at least so soon.
These lowered rates, as well as declining support for a mandate and the FDA continuing to move back the timetable of approved vaccines for children, caused California last month to push the statewide student vaccination to July of 2023. The pushback was designed to coincide with the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year, with the state likely to reevaluate the mandate again sometime in early 2023.
With California no longer seeking a mandate this year, LA school board members, as well as Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, looked into if a mandate was needed so soon in LA. They found that, within the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD), 78% of students have been fully vaccinated and 84% of students had at least one dose of the vaccination, with a low transmission rate amongst students also being recorded.
Delayed vaccination mandates in LA, California
The current vaccination levels would have left around 40,000 students needing to go out of class and into the new online academies that LA schools are now setting up. However, the District is not prepared to bring that many students into the new program next year, or to leave the district entirely. As a result, the board voted unanimously on Tuesday during a 12-hour board meeting for the delay of mandatory vaccines until at least July 2023.
“This was the right move at the right time, perfectly endorsed by science,” explained Carvalho on Wednesday. “The delay will make a positive difference for students whose parents were not sending them to school for face-to-face education, because they lacked a vaccination status.”
Many education experts noted that while the districts vaccination plans are now aligned more with the state and give those against the mandate s more time to try and stop them, LA schools may be also trying to stop enrollment in the district from dropping even more than it has been in the last several years.
“Next school year LA is projected to go under 400,000 students. Next year alone, that’s 36,000 students being lost at least,” Melissa Lopez, an education strategist for schools districts in several Pacific states, told the Globe on Wednesday. “That student loss is far outpacing any population loss and rises in homeschooling, so there is definitely worry there. Look how many who are unvaccinated who would have to seek other options. 40,000 students. Even if half of them vaccinate by next year, lets be generous and say 75%, that’s still 10,000 who may be looking at homeschool private school transfers, and other options that aren’t simply a switch to remote classes.”
“LA can say that, you know, they need more support and that they are only following California’s new mandate. But honestly, they want to stop the bleeding of students in the district. The LAUSD does not want to go to the union and say ‘Hey, can we fire a bunch more of you?’ Putting in the mandate would only make that worse.”
“The LA school board said several reasons that are honestly legitimate for moving the mandate by a year, but make no mistake they were only more than happy to do it to not face an even larger student loss this coming school year.”
The LA schools vaccination mandate will likely be revisited sometime early next year, barring an emergency change due to a return of high COVID-19 rates in schools.