Last Updated On: September 23rd, 2021
As students return to school for the fall, many in-person for the first time since early 2020, school districts across the country have been implementing various strategies to try and ensure student safety and keep school from having to return to remote learning. While the concept of vaccine mandates has been controversial, multiple school districts have already announced vaccine mandates, and depending how successfully the mandate rollout goes in those districts, it’s reasonable to expect more mandates are coming. With frequently shifting guidelines and the country (and even individual states) adopting piecemeal approaches to vaccine and COVID safety policies, it can be tough for students and parents to figure out just what they need to do to be ready for school in their area. Fortunately we here at LA tutors are here with more information about the vaccine mandates that have already been announced and what might be coming down the pipeline.
What’s Already Been Announced:
Following the lead of a few smaller school districts such as Culver City, Los Angeles Unified School District has become the largest school district to announce a vaccine mandate for students older than 12 years old. The mandate gives students until November 21st to receive a first dose, and until December 19th to receive a second dose. Given the time it takes after a second dose for a person to be considered to have full immunity, this effectively means the district is aiming for a fully vaccinated student body by the beginning of 2022.
In addition to the general rules for the entire student body ages 12 and up, LAUSD has announced additional, more stringent deadlines for any student who wants to participate in a school-sponsored extracurricular activity (such as a sport, drama, or band) will have to have received a second dose by the end of October. Given the number of activities that fall under this category, we expect this earlier deadline to apply to a significant portion of the student body. Furthermore, given how much the students we worked with on academic support during the year of remote learning talked about how they missed school sports and clubs, we expect the demand for extracurricular activities to be even higher than it was pre-pandemic.
In contrast to LAUSD, the largest school district in the country, the NYC Department of Education has announced a plan that strongly encourages vaccination for eligible students but only mandates it for students taking part in what they deem “high risk” extracurriculars, such as certain contact sports, chorus, and bowling.
What this Means for Parents and Students in Places that Have Announced Vaccine Mandates:
Parents and students in locations such as Los Angeles and New York should keep abreast of the requisite deadlines and make sure they have their vaccination dates lined up with enough time to meet them. In both districts, parents should keep in mind that even if their child didn’t previously participate in extracurriculars, many students are eager for more chances for socialization (or even just more excuses to get out of the house) after a year or more of isolated, remote learning, so it might be wise to make vaccination plans that keep the earlier extracurricular dates in mind. Additionally, parents in these school districts should research where and how they will need to submit proof of vaccination. In Los Angeles, for example, students will need to upload their proof of vaccination to an online portal. Unfortunately, school web portals are not always renowned for their ease of use, so parents may also want to build in some buffer time to figure out their uploading and ensure that their child doesn’t have to miss any school because of technical difficulties.
What Parents and Students Should Expect in Districts that Have Yet to Announce Any Vaccine Policy
Many school districts have not announced any policies regarding vaccination for students. However, we expect that, at least in areas with significant support for vaccine mandates, more and more districts will begin announcing policies. Many vaccine policies, both in and out of schools, seem to have waited for full authorization of vaccines before implementation. Currently, there are only vaccines granted emergency use authorization for children under 16, if and when full authorization is granted, expect more vaccine mandates, especially in places where there is public support for them.
Parents and students should keep up with local news reports and information from their local schools in order to be alert to any changes in policy. This difficult time in education has been marked by rapid changes in policy and behavior from schools and local governments, so being informed and adaptable is paramount. Opinion and behavior around vaccine mandates might shift and reflect the speed with which many school districts have adopted mask mandates this year. Numerous school districts around the country found themselves returning to mandatory masking after trying to hold in-person classes maskless and seeing a surge in cases. The unfortunate reality of the Delta variant, case rates in many parts of the country, and the difficulties of enforcing social distancing amongst teenagers may make more stringent anti-COVID protocols such as vaccine mandates more and more appealing, especially as districts are faced with the challenges brought by quarantining exposed students or even a return to remote learning and the potential learning losses it might bring.
What This Means for Parents of Students Under 12:
These mandates do not, of course, apply to students under 12, who are not yet eligible for vaccination. However, younger students do share schools, classrooms, and extracurricular activities with students old enough to be vaccinated, so they will hopefully derive some protection from the reduced transmission from vaccinated students around them. Furthermore, while we at LA Tutors are, of course, neither epidemiologists nor clairvoyants, early reports have made it seem quite possible that there will be vaccines authorized for use in children under 12 by some time in the fall.
Depending on if the FDA does decide to authorize vaccines for younger children and the success of vaccine mandates for children 12 and older, we could potentially see mandates for younger children. Again, much of this will depend on the FDA’s decision, public opinion and pressure, and the relative success or failure of the initial student vaccine mandates. Parents should check back with their school boards or local governments to be prepared for any potential policy changes.
What this Means for Parents and Students in Private Schools:
Private schools do not, of course, fall under the same rules for vaccination as the public schools in their area. However, even without government orders, many private schools have announced vaccine mandates for students and faculty, especially in parts of the country where support for vaccines is high. Additionally, on many policies private schools tend to follow the guidelines of the public schools in the area, so it is reasonable to expect that if you live in an area with vaccine mandates for public school students, your private school might reasonably follow suit, or vice-versa if you live somewhere where vaccines remain less popular or even controversial. However, this is by no means a guarantee, so be sure to check in with your school to make sure you know both their current policy and any potential changes that might be coming contingent on case rate changes or any further federal vaccine authorizations. If your school is part of a larger religious or organizing body, the school will most likely follow whatever official policy is dictated by that group, so you will want to keep up with any announcements from them as well.