97% of LAUSD teachers and administrators meet COVID vaccine deadline

About 97% of Los Angeles teachers and 97% of administrators met the school district’s Friday deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a level of compliance that officials said would result in minimal disruption to classroom instruction in the sprawling district, according to information released Friday by the responsibles.

The vaccine requirement applies to all employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District – approximately 73,000 – as well as parent volunteers and district contractors who work on campus. Employees of charter schools licensed by the district must also comply.

In its statement, the district did not include figures for all employees. Immunization rates have been lower for low-paid non-teaching workers, which could cause scattered problems in food and maintenance and other non-teaching positions.

The district also continues to test weekly for coronavirus infections among students and staff, which have steadily declined since the start of the school year. Thousands of students, however, remain affected by quarantines after being identified as close contacts of infected people. Last week, 503 students tested positive for infection; 2,712 students have entered quarantine. And new outbreaks – three or more linked cases – have been identified on five campuses, according to district data.

The district’s vaccine count represents substantial progress since the end of September, when about 1 in 5 district staff had not submitted immunization documentation.

Officials would not disclose information on how many of the remaining 3% of teachers’ union members – around 1,000 – or other school employees have received vaccine exemptions for medical or religious reasons. Anyone without at least one dose of the vaccine will be banned from campuses on Monday, potentially disrupting the continuity of classroom education in the country’s second-largest school system.

“As we expected, our number of staff members vaccinated is steadily increasing,” said Kelly Gonez, president of the LA school board. “We continue to encourage all employees to get vaccinated this week. I have no doubts that the flexibilities we have established for those who receive their first dose by October 15 will protect our employees who make an unqualified effort to get vaccinated, while minimizing the impact on schools and services.

She added: “The immunization mandate is a priority for the entire system, and as a member of the board, I have requested and received regular updates on our progress.”

In an internal communication, United Teachers Los Angeles advised its unvaccinated members not to assume they could transition to the largely online City of Angels program and work remotely.

“Employees without accommodation who have not received at least one dose of vaccine by October 15 will not be able to teach in the City of Angels’ online program,” the communication said. “Only members who receive accommodation, as well as volunteers / transfers from school sites who are vaccinated, can be assigned to the City of Angels program. “

The union stressed the importance of going all the way, either by downloading material or getting a first try.

“If you have been vaccinated but have not yet provided proof to LAUSD, we encourage you to do so as soon as possible,” the union said. “Employees who fail to provide proof of at least one dose of the vaccine will not be allowed into any LAUSD school or work site after October 15 and will be terminated unless they have received medical or religious accommodation. “

The union did not respond to a request for further comment. United Teachers Los Angeles represents more than 30,000 teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians.

The teachers’ union approved mandatory vaccinations for both employees and students – and, in the previous school year, the union opposed calls to reopen campuses until all members have the opportunity to be fully immunized. District officials agreed to this condition, and as a result, campuses did not reopen until mid-April, later than in some other school systems.

The vast majority of teachers quickly obtained the vaccines when they became available, but a significant minority resisted. Reluctance to immunize has historically been higher among members of the other major labor group in the district: Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 28,000 non-teaching employees, including a large number of workers. at low wages.

The original deadline for employees to be fully immunized – two weeks after the last shot – was Friday. This week, however, the acting superintendent. Megan K. Reilly extended the deadline. But employees still had to get vaccinated – any vaccine authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – by Friday’s original deadline, with a full vaccination required by November 15.

SEIU Local 99 lobbied for the extension in contract negotiations. At the end of the day on Thursday, the union estimated that around 83% of its members were vaccinated, spokeswoman Blanca Gallegos said.

“However, many members told us that there were still issues with uploading proof of immunization to the district system, so we expect the numbers to increase once these issues are resolved,” Gallegos said. .

Members of SEIU Local 99 include food service workers, guards, bus drivers and special education assistants.

A third union, Local 500 of the California School Employees Assn., Reported an immunization rate of 93.1% on Friday morning. This union represents approximately 3,700 office workers, campus finance directors, library assistants and other support staff.

Employee travel and transfers could cause disruption in schools where several workers are affected. Other schools are likely to see little or no change – 1,000 unvaccinated teachers equates to an average of about one per campus in the massive school system.

But the fallout will be substantial for those directly affected – and their students or colleagues.

“I hate LAUSD for what they do,” said an unvaccinated teaching assistant who works with students with disabilities. “I don’t even want to work for them anymore.

A teacher who was vaccinated as a last resort remains angry.

“This is unacceptable,” said the teacher, who, like the other employee, asked not to be named. “Our freedoms and livelihoods are being taken away from us. “

Many other district employees – and parents – expressed relief that the warrant was implemented. They see it as an important additional security measure. For some, it can’t come too soon.

LA Unified students 12 years and older have a different schedule but should also be vaccinated in the coming weeks. A parent has filed a dispute over this requirement.

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