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What They’re Saying: Education and Labor Leaders Support New Measure Encouraging Teachers and School Staff to Get Vaccinated

SACRAMENTO – Education and labor leaders across the state welcomed Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement today that all school staff are required to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week as California starts the school year fully in-person. California is the first state in the nation to require all school staff, including at public and private schools, to verify vaccination status or get tested.

The measure follows California’s first-in-the-nation requirement that workers in health care settings be fully vaccinated, as well as stricter requirements for visitors at health care facilities and a standard that all state workers either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week. The state is encouraging local governments and other employers to adopt a similar protocol.

California State PTA President Carol Green: “California State PTA is in favor of all Educators and school staff being vaccinated to protect the children at school who cannot be. If vaccination is not possible weekly testing would be in order. We want to do everything possible to protect our most vulnerable children and ensure that all children can return to school as safely as possible. We stand by our position that educators are essential workers and support the safe opening of schools to in person instruction. We think the Governor’s action is a positive step forward based on science to protect our schools communities.”

California Teachers Association (CTA) President E. Toby Boyd: “We know from our surveys that nearly 90 percent of educators have already been vaccinated. Yet in the past few weeks, we have seen a rising spread of the Delta variant, especially among children, just as the new school year is starting. Educators want to be in classrooms with their students, and the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone who is medically eligible to be vaccinated, with robust testing and multi-tiered safety measures. Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our youngest learners under 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible from this highly contagious Delta variant. All along we have let community conditions, science and public health guidance lead us and have strongly advocated for multiple layers of safety protections – vaccinations, masking, physical distancing, improved ventilation and robust testing – to keep our school communities safe. Educators and parents must continue to play an active role in developing safety plans for their schools and colleges. Today’s announcement provides an important alternative for those educators who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, while continuing to send a strong and clear message that every one of us – educators, eligible students, parents and staff – must be doing everything we can if we hope to win this fight against COVID and keep our schools open safely. The health of each one of us depends on the work of all of us.”

California Federation of Teachers (CFT) President Jeff Freitas: “We are optimistic about returning to in-person education in classrooms around the state and keeping our schools open, which depends on the health and safety of our school communities. The most important step toward achieving this is for all eligible individuals to be vaccinated, followed by frequent testing for those who are unvaccinated. Combining this policy with mitigation measures like masking, hand washing, and good ventilation will ensure we are doing everything possible to keep schools safe for in-person learning. We applaud the Governor’s efforts to provide a framework that works toward this goal.”

California Medical Association (CMA) Board of Trustees Chair Shannon Udovic-Constant, M.D.: “As parents, all of us are concerned about students returning to schools at a time when COVID cases are still high. We have a responsibility to do all we can to protect the health and well-being of our kids – particularly those who are too young to receive COVID vaccines. Everyone who is eligible should get vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccines are safe and highly effective in stopping the risks associated with this disease. By ensuring all teachers and school employees are vaccinated or tested regularly, we can send our children back to school knowing they will get the in-person learning and social interaction that is so crucial for their health and development, while also doing our part to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to children and their families.”

American Academy of Pediatrics, California: “California pediatricians witnessed the impact on academics, social and emotional skills, reliable nutrition, physical activity, and mental health that the COVID19 Pandemic has had. Schools and their programs are essential to the development and wellbeing of children and adolescents. The American Academy of Pediatrics, California, strongly advocates that all policy considerations for school plans should start with the goal of keeping students safe and physically present in school. Vaccination is an essential piece of the layered safety practices designed to ensure safe in-person learning for California’s children. (California) Pediatricians wholeheartedly support the state’s efforts to ensure that teachers and staff are protecting our children and each other from COVID by being vaccinated or regularly tested. As the next school year begins, every effort must be made to keep students in schools in person, especially those that are vulnerable or are not eligible to be vaccinated. All children should be insured safe equitable access to education.”

Public Advocates: “This order will help schools keep kids safe as they reopen this Fall and give parents, students and staff confidence that all adults will be fully-vaccinated or COVID-free. After such a trying year, we must ensure students experience a safe and restorative return to in-person school — one where they can focus on rebuilding strong relationships and immersing themselves in rigorous learning. We support the Governor’s efforts to get our kids back to school safely.”

Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) President Charlie Hoffman: “The executive committee of the ACSA board of directors voted unanimously to support the Governor’s action, because our schools need to be safe. The delta variant seems to change the game for us, and this action should keep students, and ultimately school employees, more safe. While we hope that all employees will ultimately decide to be vaccinated, we look forward to working with the Governor’s administration on the necessary staffing and operations support required to conduct employee COVID testing in our schools.”

California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) President and Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L.K. Monroe: “The vaccine requirement for all education staff, announced today by Governor Newsom, is another critical step, one that aligns with the science, and public health recommendations to create the safest environment possible as we are welcoming students back to school. We know that in-person instruction is imperative for the well-being of our students. Districts, schools and educational leaders have spent months planning and working to open our campuses safely and now it is our priority to keep them open, and these extra prevention measures will help us accomplish this. This is an exciting time of year as students return to classrooms. But with the Delta variant causing an alarming rise in case rates, families are rightly concerned about the well-being of their children, as we anticipate the opportunity for our youngest learners to be eligible for the vaccine. School staff, understandably, have concerns as well. We will continue to rely on state guidance and recommendations and support the implementation of strategies that increase the safety of our school environments. Our students and staff deserve nothing less.”

Executive Board Member of SEIU California and SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias: “Students are back in California classrooms today because frontline educational workers led the drive to create safe learning environments. We share Governor Newsom’s commitment to increasing the rate of vaccination so we can better protect the students and families we serve from sickness and death, and prevent the virus from spreading to our own families and communities, and we support public health measures such as this which are designed to do so while giving workers a choice. Worker-led school safety protocols have created the model for safe school reopening, and many school workers have already created similar agreements. Workers and employers sitting down at the bargaining table is the most effective way to create and implement vaccine policies for the benefit of the entire school community.”

California School Employees Association (CSEA) President Shane Dishman: “CSEA is committed to ensuring the safety of students and staff in California schools. Broad vaccination is the surest way to see us out of this pandemic and ensure that schools stay open for in-person instruction, and our youngest students and those who are not eligible for the vaccine are dependent on those of us who can get it. We must all do our part to either get vaccinated or take the necessary measures to ensure we do not pose a health risk to others.”

California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) President and CEO Myrna Castrejón: “If you are an educator – in preschool, in elementary, middle and high school, or in higher education – we urge you to get vaccinated for your own safety and that of the students in your care. The recent surge in pediatric Delta COVID-19 cases is a reminder that we cannot let our guard down and we must continue to follow evidence-based guidance from public health agencies. Not only do vaccinations protect adults and adolescents from the most serious COVID-19 health complications, they are safe. Keeping our families, communities and schools safe is a job for all of us, and we must each do our part. CCSA supports the orders by the California Department of Public Health to mitigate transmission and ensure a safe return to in-person learning. We urge all educators and school staff to get vaccinated to keep yourselves and students safe.”