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San Diego Unified to discuss potential vaccination mandate for staff and eligible students

Jorge Olvera, 13, and his sister Mariana, 12, receive COVID-19 vaccines at SeaWorld San Diego on Sept. 8.
Jorge Olvera, 13, and his sister Mariana, 12, receive COVID-19 vaccines at a pop-up vaccination site at SeaWorld San Diego on Sept. 8.
(Kristian Carreon)

The school board is scheduled to meet Tuesday, Sept. 28, online.

Leaders of San Diego’s largest school district plan to discuss mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for employees and eligible students 12 and older, officials said.

San Diego Unified School District board members are scheduled to discuss the topic during a public meeting Tuesday, Sept. 28, online. The district includes five schools in La Jolla.

The Sept. 16 announcement of the upcoming discussion came a week after the Los Angeles Unified School District became the first major school district in the United States to approve a vaccination mandate for its students 12 and older. L.A. Unified mandated vaccines for its employees in August.

Richard Barrera, San Diego Unified board president, said he could only speak for himself, given that it’s a discussion for the board, but he believes approving a vaccine mandate is the right thing to do.

“I think it’s the best way to keep kids in school and keep our schools stable over the course of the next several months,” Barrera said.

Thousands of students in La Jolla donned masks and backpacks and headed back to campuses as the San Diego Unified School District opened its 2021-22 school year Aug. 30 with continued measures against COVID-19.

The district currently gives staff the option of getting vaccinated or getting weekly coronavirus tests. About 80 percent of the district’s approximately 14,000 staff members already have received at least their first vaccination shot, Barrera said.

The district serves more than 121,000 students in preschool through 12th grade. About 40,000 of the students enrolled are 12 or older, Barrera said.

If the school board moves forward with approving a vaccine mandate, it would be up to parents to show proof of vaccination for their children, given that privacy regulations prevent the district from learning from health care entities which students are or aren’t vaccinated, Barrera said.

The district currently requires all students and staff members to wear masks indoors and out. Students can take off their masks when eating outdoors and can take “mask breaks” in P.E. class and other sports activities when they are six feet from other students, the district has said.

The Sept. 28 board meeting will be held entirely online over Zoom, beginning at 5 p.m. Members of the public can provide comments virtually.

The agenda will be posted at go.boarddocs.com/ca/sandi/Board.nsf/Public.

California already requires all state workers and all public and private school staff to be vaccinated or undergo regular coronavirus testing. The state also requires COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers, with no option to use testing as a substitute.

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.