COVID shots required for school staff in 36% of top districts

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With the vast majority of American students learning again in classrooms, 180 of America’s 500 largest school districts have adopted requirements for their staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an analysis released Monday by Burbio, an organization that followed school security policies during the pandemic.

It’s a safety measure that health experts say represents a key step towards improving coronavirus safety at school – especially as younger students remain ineligible for vaccines probably until in November. Although children rarely become seriously ill from the virus, young people still account for more than a quarter of new cases in the United States, and school-based epidemics have already triggered some 2,265 closures in 580 districts in 2021-2022.

“Most of the pediatricians I’ve spoken to… absolutely support immunization mandates for teachers,” Kristina Deeter, professor of pediatric medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, told The 74. “It’s the right thing to do.”

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In 11 states, coronavirus vaccines are mandatory for teachers statewide, reports the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, which means that a considerable share of the 180 districts with staff mandates adopted such policies because state law required it.

Yet vaccination rules vary from district to district, with some mandates already in effect and others not taking effect until next month.

Some school systems have more lenient policies, such as Philadelphia, which recognizes that unvaccinated teachers will not lose their jobs, despite being tested twice a week. Others impose stricter penalties, such as New York City, which prohibits unvaccinated teachers from entering school buildings and puts them on unpaid leave until they get vaccinated.

Even districts where staff have a choice of vaccination or regular testing are included in the 36% tally, Burbio co-founder Dennis Roche confirmed to The 74.

The New York City mandate, which came into effect on Oct. 4 after a brief court challenge, applies to approximately 150,000 people who work in the nation’s largest school system and has forced thousands of employees to get vaccinated in the weeks before the rule comes into force. Some 96 percent of teachers in the district have now been immune to COVID-19, The New York Times reported.

In contrast, Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school system, extended its deadline for employees to receive their snaps from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15 on Monday, fearing that strict enforcement would exacerbate staffing issues and does not cause major disruption. Unlike the New York City mandate, the LA rule requires two doses before the deadline for educators receiving the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

With many teacher terms in deep blue states, the San Antonio Independent School District has a vaccination requirement that is due to go into effect Oct. 15. Earlier this month, the district rule survived a legal challenge by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton when a county judge rejected the state’s motion to seek a temporary injunction on the warrant. A decision on the policy of a higher court is expected in a few days.

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday issued an executive order banning all COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the state, including for private employers.

“We are reviewing the new executive order and consulting with our legal counsel and board of directors to determine how the district will proceed with its mandate to vaccinate employees,” a spokesperson for ISD San ​​Antonio wrote in an e- mail to 74.

Instead of warrants, other Texas districts offer cash incentives to teachers who roll up their sleeves. Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth each offer bonuses of $ 500 to fully immunized educators.

Vaccination mandates for students remain much rarer, with only a few selected districts having implemented such rules. The California Districts of Los Angeles, Oakland and Culver City as well as Hoboken, New Jersey have each made vaccination a requirement for in-person school for vaccine-eligible students, with deadlines in the coming months. Washington, DC is considering a similar policy.

In early October, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that coronavirus vaccines will be required for all eligible students in the state, although the rule will likely not come into effect until July 2022.

Burbio’s tally that 36% of top districts require teachers to be vaccinated comes as the rush to adopt such policies has slowed dramatically. After eight states decided to promulgate mandates for educators in late August and early September, only one – Delaware – has added a similar rule since then, PERC reports.

But even as the number of COVID cases drops nationwide, Deeter, the professor of pediatrics, warns that now is not the time for the country to let its guard down.

“As the surge subsides… now everyone is thinking ‘Yay! [The pandemic] is finished.’ It is not finished. It’s not even near the end. We’re just getting ready for the next wave, ”she said. “We have to prepare. “

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