SFUSD to Require COVID Vaccinations for Staff — or Weekly Testing

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A student and her parent check in with staff at Gordon Lau Elementary School in San Francisco on April 21, 2021. SFUSD will now require all staff to either get vaccinated against COVID or undergo weekly testing. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The San Francisco Unified School District will require all of its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested for the coronavirus at least weekly, district officials announced Tuesday.

The new policy, which takes effect on Sept. 7, affects approximately 10,000 workers, but does not apply to students.

SFUSD is giving its employees until Aug. 31 to submit their vaccination verification. More than half of SFUSD staff has been vaccinated to date, according to the announcement.

The union representing city teachers, United Educators of San Francisco, has advocated for a vaccine mandate, and supported the decision.

"As we all return to school buildings in person, we are glad that we can move forward welcoming students and families with excitement and ensuring the safety conditions possible in the midst of this continuing pandemic," UESF President Cassondra Curiel said.

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Curiel acknowledged there would be disagreement over the decision.

"But ultimately, I believe that the majority of educators are in line with this kind of policy and also wanting to do what’s best for a great number of our population, which is students that aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine and also for people in our population who might be medically vulnerable and cannot obtain that vaccine yet or ever," Curiel told KQED.

Tuesday marked the first day back to work for SFUSD staff, while students return to class Monday, Aug. 16.

All students and staff will continue to have access to COVID-19 testing through SFUSD’s partnership with Color, district officials said.

As cases continue to climb throughout the city and the nation, district leaders said the move is necessary.

"As we move to a full return to in-person learning on August 16, we are doing so with all of the current health and safety requirements in place," SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews said in a statement. "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."

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In addition to the vaccination requirement for staff, students and staff will also have to adhere to indoor mask mandates — regardless of vaccination status — in alignment with the citywide health order that went into effect last week.

San José 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.

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.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden's chief medical adviser on COVID-19, said on Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccines should be mandatory for school teachers, citing the need to protect children who are too young to be vaccinated during a pandemic that has grown worse with the spread of the delta variant.

"I'm going to upset some people on this, but I think we should [require teacher vaccinations]," Fauci said in an interview on MSNBC.

This story includes reporting from KQED's Don Clyde and Kaushikee Nayudu, NPR, The Associated Press and Bay City News.