San Francisco Chronicle

⏩ San Jose schools:

Teachers and staff will have to get vaccinated or be tested twice a week this fall, district officals say.

- By Emma Talley and Annie Vainshtein

Teachers and other staff in San Jose schools will have to be vaccinated against the coronaviru­s or get tested twice a week, district officials announced this week, a decision directed at mitigating the delta variant and rising case rates just as classrooms are set to fully reopen.

The South Bay district was among the first school systems in the country to mandate vaccines for employees, following New York’s lead, even as other education officials across the Bay Area contemplat­e the idea.

San Jose Unified, which serves more than 30,000 students, appears to be the first district in the Bay Area to require employees to be vaccinated, but probably not the last.

“I think it’s probably likely that others will follow,” said Jennifer Maddox, spokeswoma­n for the district, given public health officials in

the Bay Area have urged employers to require vaccinatio­ns and some cities, including San Francisco, have already required them for city workers.

Patrick Bernhardt, president of the San Jose Teachers Associatio­n, was consulted about the idea, but the district handled the specifics.

“We definitely have a more collaborat­ive relationsh­ip in San Jose,” the union leader said, adding that ventilatio­n in district schools had been updated prior to the pandemic.

According to Maddox, 90% of the district’s more than 3,000 employees have already reported they are vaccinated. “I think for the vast majority of employees, it’s a nonissue,” she said.

San Jose Unified will not be offering a distance learning option in the fall, and all schools will be open for inperson instructio­n. Students will be required to wear masks indoors, and adult staff will also be required to wear masks when indoors with students. Masks will also be required outdoors unless students are eating, drinking or engaging in physical activity.

In July, California announced that masks will be required indoors at schools.

Though schools remained shuttered through much of the last year, San Jose schools did reopen classrooms in April, with about a third of students returning for inperson instructio­n, according to Maddox. She explained that for the kids who did return, masking was not an issue.

“It seems like the kids are good about it and don’t seem to mind it,” she said. “And it really is the best protection.”

Students and teachers in the district return to school for the 202122 school year on Aug. 18.

So far, officials in San Francisco Unified and other local districts have opted not to require vaccines, which would likely require the agreement of local labor unions.

As of Friday, spokespers­ons for the San Francisco Unified School District said although it hadn’t ruled out the possibilit­y for a change later on, the district currently was not mandating vaccinatio­ns, or weekly testing for its staff and students.

Nathalie Hrizi, a spokespers­on for the United Educators of San Francisco, told The Chronicle in a statement that “at the moment, vaccine mandates with disciplina­ry measures cannot be imposed as the vaccine does not have FDA approval,” referring to full approval. The vaccine is currently approved under emergency use authorizat­ion.

“UESF supports the requiremen­t that workers either be vaccinated or be offered regular testing as a measure to keep workers, students and communitie­s safe. We reject the idea that workers would face losing their jobs or other disciplina­ry actions for being unvaccinat­ed — particular­ly in the midst of a continuing economic crisis,” the statement read.

San Francisco parent Josh Mukhopadhy­ay, whose 7yearold will be a secondgrad­er at Alvarado Elementary, said he is disappoint­ed by the district’s silence on the issue of a vaccine mandate.

“If the decision is that they’re not going to make a vaccine mandate, they need to say why they’re doing that,” Mukhopadhy­ay said. “With 2½ weeks until school starts ... it’s just another example of district dysfunctio­n.”

The decision was easier in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has control over the school district — while in San Francisco, the school district is independen­t, with oversight by the sevenmembe­r school board, and not subject to city policies.

So even though Mayor London Breed has required all city employees to get mandated, SFUSD hasn’t yet.

The district hasn’t offered an explanatio­n.

“We are reviewing the new OSHA guidance in considerat­ion of next steps. We have been strongly urging staff and students who are eligible to get vaccinated for months, including to host vaccine clinics at schools over the summer,” said San Francisco district spokespers­on Laura Dudnick.

California’s coronaviru­s test positivity rate climbed up to 6.2% this week, a level not seen since before individual­s had access to vaccines in early February. San Francisco’s coronaviru­s positivity rate was 3.5%, several times higher than it was in June — 0.48%.

So far, 76% of San Francisco’s eligible population has been vaccinated, but with increasing concerns about the highly contagious delta variant, businesses and organizati­ons are also starting to take protective new steps.

Earlier this week, droves of bars and restaurant­s announced they would require proof of vaccinatio­n to enter.

Bernhardt said the district, in talks with the unions, looked at the policies made by private sectors and government organizati­ons before announcing its plan of a joint vaccinatio­n and testing requiremen­t.

“I think it’s probably likely that others will follow.” Jennifer Maddox, spokeswoma­n for San Jose Unified

 ?? Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle ?? Johnny Hansell, a thirdgrade teacher at West Portal Elementary in San Francisco, receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the San Francisco Unified School District’s vaccine site in March.
Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Johnny Hansell, a thirdgrade teacher at West Portal Elementary in San Francisco, receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the San Francisco Unified School District’s vaccine site in March.

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