SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco school district reversed course on Tuesday, saying it will require its 10,000 teachers and other staff to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or be tested weekly.
The announcement makes the San Francisco Unified School District the latest in California to issue a vaccine or testing mandate for staff as schools across the state return to in-person classes amid a troubling surge in infections because of the highly contagious delta variant.
San Jose and Long Beach Unified school districts have issued similar requirements in recent days. Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, is requiring all students and employees to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, regardless of vaccination status.
Until Tuesday, San Francisco school officials had strongly encouraged staff to get vaccinated but had said they would not require it.
District Superintendent Vincent Matthews did not address the reversal Tuesday, but said in a statement that the mandate was needed as an extra layer of protection as the district’s schools prepare to reopen for in-person classes on next Monday.
“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,” Matthews said.
The union that represents San Francisco teachers said it had pushed for the mandate.
“Because United Educators of San Francisco love our communities and care for our students, we took the lead on advocating for a vaccine requirement paired with testing in SFUSD,” said Cassondra Curiel, president of the union, said in a joint statement with the district.
In the past few weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom has mandated that state employees and health care workers must be fully vaccinated for employment. For schools, Newsom has issued a mandatory mask mandate for indoor classes that applies to teachers and students but has left the decision of whether to require vaccines up to local districts.