San Francisco Public Schools Update Policy, Will Require Staffers To Vaccinate Or Test Weekly

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San Francisco public education officials changed course Tuesday by announcing the district would implement a new mandate requiring teachers and staffers to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus or be subject to regular testing.

The San Francisco Chronicle described the decision as “a surprise announcement,” noting it “came less than a week before the first day of school Monday and reversed a wait-and-see approach by the district’s 10,000 employees to submit vaccination status by the end of the month.”

The new mandate does not apply to students.

It instructs all employees of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to be fully vaccinated starting September 7, the deadline to request an exception or deferral based on a medical exemption, disability, or religious objection.

“Any employee who is not yet vaccinated will be mandated to test for COVID-19 at least weekly,” a public announcement on the district’s website says.

“As we move to a full return to in-person learning on August 16, we are doing so with all of the current health and safety requirements in place,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews in a statement. “Given that we are in the midst of rising cases and new variants in our community, a vaccine requirement is a necessary step to keeping our students, staff and families safe.”

SFUSD started sending out messages to employees two weeks ago requiring they report their vaccination status, a policy change from the spring when disclosing that information was optional. Officials said the district has received “confirmation of vaccination status” from more than half its employees and is giving them until August 31 to comply.

Still, a memorandum distributed to employees on Tuesday instructs “all staff, interns, contractors and volunteers” to “be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before physically accessing District facilities.”

“The District is currently collecting proof of vaccination and processing requests for Exceptions and Deferrals,” it continued.

The presidents of the school board and teachers union support the new vaccine mandate. Both provided statements that were included in the district’s press release announcing the update.

More details from the Chronicle:

The requirement came the same day Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, called on education officials to require teachers be vaccinated…

The decision also follows an increasing demand by hundreds of parents in the city, many in the Chinese American community, for a distance learning option despite assurances by health officials that schools are safe with masking and other mitigation efforts in place. Families were expected to submit a petition Tuesday asking officials to add more online spots. So far, the district has offered 677 families who applied by a July 30 deadline placement in the distance learning program.

Some have threatened to abandon the city’s public schools if forced to return to in-person learning.

SFUSD is the seventh-largest school district in California, serving 57,000 students.

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