SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With only slightly more than half of Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) students reporting their vaccination status to the district as of Wednesday, Jan. 26, school officials announced their decision to delay the upcoming vaccination requirement to at least Feb. 28.
"This deadline extension allows us more time to continue to navigate the daily demands of the omicron surge while driving student consent to testing and vaccination reporting," SCUSD said in a press release.
The press release goes on to say of the 27,697 students required to do routine testing because they have yet to report their status, 8,226 are still not registered to test. There are 969 active cases among Sacramento City Unified students, as of Wednesday, and 4,443 cases in total, according to the district's COVID-19 dashboard.
What happens next?
SCUSD joins at least 40 other school districts across California drafting their own vaccination mandates ahead of the statewide requirement set to take effect following the FDA's full approval of the COVID vaccine for children kindergarten age or older.
However, some state lawmakers are pushing to speed up the process of implementing a statewide mandate.
"This is why the district has recommended taking an additional month to conduct outreach to families that have not yet met the requirement," said Sacramento City Unified spokesperson Al Goldberg. "Students that have not met the district’s requirement will not be moved into independent study before March."
But the city's school district isn't the first to push back its mandate because of lacking compliance rates.
Los Angeles Unified School District delayed the requirement for its more than 600,000 students to fall 2022, so 30,000 students still out of compliance with the vaccine mandate won't be forced online.
Goldberg said on Wednesday the delay for the SCUSD vaccine mandate also resulted from emergency needs in January that caused a shift in focus to staffing shortages and COVID-19 case surges.
Over the next month, district officials will continue to send targeted communications in multiple languages to families not meeting the students vaccine requirement.
"This (Feb. 28) deadline extension will give our district more time to continue to navigate the daily demands of the omicron surge while continuing to conduct outreach to families so that vaccination status and/or consent to testing is submitted for all students," Goldberg said.
Marika Sotia, a father to three SCUSD students, was picking up one of his kids from Will C. Wood Middle School Wednesday afternoon.
"It's good they put it until Feb. 28," Sotia said. "It gives me time to make up my mind."
Sotia is still deciding whether to get his kids vaccinated. He said breakthrough cases, where people who are vaccinated still get COVID-19, give him pause.
"If I feel, you know, kind of comfortable having my kids vaccinated, I'm just going to go ahead and do it," he said, but added that if the number of breakthrough cases in SCUSD students rises, "then I think I'll have my kids up for independent study."
That independent study option for kids who don't get vaccinated is a concern to the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA), at a time when the district is grappling with a staffing shortage.
"We're in favor, in general, of a [vaccine] mandate," SCTA president David Fisher told ABC10 Wednesday afternoon. "The problem is, the district cannot staff the independent study program, at least in part because they continue to demand huge cuts in teachers' pay and salary."