The Los Angeles Unified School District is expected to become the first central district in the country to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for students 12 and older, a significant step to protect young people amid the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.
The district’s Board of Education has scheduled a meeting for Thursday to vote on the vaccine mandate, likely to be approved. The Los Angeles Times notes that a majority of the board has already said publicly they favor the step or are leaning toward passage.
If passed, students 12 and older would need to receive the first dose of a vaccine by Nov. 21 and a second dose by Dec. 19 to attend in-person learning. This timeline will allow schools to begin the next semester with a fully inoculated cohort of eligible kids. Any child who turns 12 will then have 30 days after their birthday to get their first vaccination.
Students who compete in sports would be held to a tighter timeline: Kids 12 and older would be required to have the first dose by Oct. 3 and a second dose by Oct. 31.
The school board released a statement Wednesday foreshadowing the outcome.
“The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education will vote at their next meeting on whether to mandate vaccines for all eligible students,” the board said. “Science clearly shows that vaccinations are an essential part of protecting our communities. Further details will be forthcoming after the vote.”
Just under 58% of students in the district ages 12 to 18 are vaccinated, according to the county’s Department of Public Health. The district has an independent study option for the rest of the year for students who opt to stay home, but The Washington Post reported that many students have chosen to return to class.
The Los Angeles Unified School District has more than 600,000 students and is the second-largest in the nation. The New York Times reported that the decision could have sweeping ramifications nationwide, providing smaller districts with a precedent to establish their vaccine mandates.
The district already has some of the nation’s most stringent COVID-19 prevention measures, including mask mandates for all students, staff, and visitors on campus and daily health checks. The district also has a school testing program that screens every student and staff member weekly.
Many of those requirements have drawn legal challenges, and the student vaccine mandate is likely to wind up in court as well.
The move won’t be the first for a district in California. Last month the Culver City Unified School District, also in Los Angeles County, said it would mandate vaccines for all eligible students, giving them a deadline of Nov. 19.
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