OAKDALE, Calif. (KTXL) — Before students return from winter break, Oakdale Joint Unified School District’s Board of Trustees made the decision that its nine schools would not need to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
All but one board member signed a resolution Dec. 13 saying OJUSD would not deny any students or staff the option to attend in-person instruction, regardless of their vaccination status.
The resolution also calls on California officials to make its vaccine requirement a recommendation for students and staff statewide.
In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public and private school students. School employees have already been under a California Department of Public Health order since October.
OJUSD’s board wants the state to allow schools to decide on their own what COVID-19 protocols to implement and allow students exemptions that go beyond medical and religious circumstances. Families with personal beliefs and students with “natural immunity due to COVID-19 exposure” should be able to opt-out, the board wrote.
Health officials continue to encourage vaccines and booster shots as the best protection against COVID-19 and the new, dominant omicron variant.
“We do not recommend using antibodies or any other tests to determine protection from the virus at this time. There is significant variability from one antibody test to another, and we do not know enough about what antibody levels mean in terms of protection from COVID-19 and its variants,” the CDPH says on its site.
Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Scott Kuykendall has also pushed back against the state, saying the decision should be made by parents and their children’s physicians.
Student safety continues to be our first priority in Stanislaus County. Governor Newsom claimed today (October 1) that his mandating a COVID-19 vaccine for children is in accordance with “well established rules and regulations that have been advanced by the legislature for decades.” In reality, for more than 100 years vaccine mandates for infectious diseases including polio, measles, and chickenpox have always come from state legislation: not executive orders, not local, state, or federal health orders, and not from school districts. Until we have long-term studies and better answers to questions, including appropriate vaccine dosage for younger children and the effectiveness of natural immunity, California needs to “pump the brakes” on mandating vaccinations and leave the decision up to parents and pediatricians who are best suited to make this decision.Scott Kuykendall, Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools
Last month, other local superintendents and their districts wrote letters to Newsom, asking the governor to drop his vaccine requirement.
Yuba County’s superintendent of schools and five district superintendents wrote a letter to the governor asking the state to consider personal beliefs when allowing exemptions to the upcoming K-12 COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“In listening to our community, we anticipate the implementation of a vaccination mandate, without an exemption for personal beliefs, will deeply impact schools as families leave for independent study programs or other alternatives to classroom-based instruction,” the letter said.
“The resulting divisions within some communities are eroding the trust and partnerships that are essential in public schools,” it continued.
Placer County Superintendent of Schools Gayle Garbolino-Mojica and 15 superintendents in the county sent a similar letter to Newsom.
Like Oakdale, school officials cited parents’ concerns about the research into COVID-19 vaccines for children.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the safety monitoring system for the COVID-19 vaccines has been “the most comprehensive and intense … in U.S. history,” and serious health issues stemming from the vaccine are rare.
While children 5 and older are now able to get vaccinated, California’s mandate is not expected to take full effect until July 2022.
Read OJUSD’s resolution in full below.