Where the LA public school district stands as staff vaccine mandate looms

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Employees have until Oct. 15 to get their shots.

As the vaccination deadline for Los Angeles public school staff approaches, nearly 20% of employees have not yet complied, according to the district.

Employees have until Oct. 15 to receive either the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, a Los Angeles Unified School District spokesperson said in a statement. Over 80% of staff are currently vaccinated, not including those who are scheduled to get their second or single dose by the deadline or who have not yet uploaded their vaccine records, according to the spokesperson.

“Employee vaccination rates continue to climb and we are seeing significant increases day over day and week over week,” the spokesperson said. “We are confident that we will see the numbers continue to go up as we approach the deadline.”

The district has been holding daily vaccine clinics and information sessions to help staff upload their vaccination records. Staff who don’t comply with the mandate could be placed on unpaid leave or removed from their positions. The district allows for exemptions due to disability or religious belief, though it’s unclear how many exemptions have been issued.

The district employs around 73,000 people.

The vaccination deadline looms as the district is facing staffing shortages, including some 622 teaching position vacancies, according to a superintendent’s report presented to the school board Tuesday.

One union, which represents nearly 30,000 food service workers, custodians, special education assistants, bus drivers and other workers in Los Angeles public schools, has called on the district to extend the vaccine deadline to the end of October.

“Even though we are working diligently to communicate about the importance of getting vaccinated, we believe the October 15, 2021, deadline does not give enough time for thousands of workers to receive the vaccine,” Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, said in a statement. “We are urging the district to move the deadline for school workers to be fully vaccinated to October 31, 2021, to give employees the time to complete the vaccination process.”

About 70% of the union’s members are vaccinated, Arias said.

“We are committed to the health and wellbeing of all students as exemplified by the thousands of SEIU Local 99 members that, at great risk, worked in person during the pandemic to maintain schools and ensure students had access to meals, testing and vaccination,” he said. “But we need to ensure that there is a fair and balanced approach to how we achieve our goal of 100% vaccination at schools.”

The district, the second-largest in the nation, has implemented some of the most rigorous COVID-19 mitigation measures to keep school doors open safely, including weekly testing of students and staff. Students ages 12 and up are also required to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10, barring medical exemptions. Those participating in extracurricular programs will need to get their first dose before Oct. 3.