San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) said on Tuesday that vaccinations will be mandatory for teachers and other staff returning to school in-person.
Starting Sept. 7, all of the district’s roughly 10,000 employees will be required to be fully vaccinated. Those who are not yet vaccinated will be required to undergo testing “at least once” weekly, according to a press release. SFUSD’s vaccine requirement does not apply to students, most of whom are not yet approved for the vaccine.
“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,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews in a statement.
The announcement marks a shift in the district’s posture towards vaccine requirements: As of last week, SFUSD had strongly encouraged vaccines paired with regular testing, but had not made vaccines strictly mandatory for staff. United Educators of San Francisco, the union representing public school teachers, had previously advocated for a similar protocol.
The new vaccine requirement was hailed by both district leadership and parents’ groups.
“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 safest conditions possible in the midst of this continuing pandemic,” said Cassondra Curiel, president of the UESF, in a statement.
“Parents should have even more confidence about sending their kids to school on Monday,” added Meredith Dodson, founder of Decreasing the Distance, a parents’ group that advocated for in-person learning.
SFUSD employees have until Aug. 31 to submit vaccine verification, and the district said it has received verifications from more than half of its staff so far.
Public schools students are scheduled to return to in-person learning on Aug. 16, with five days of instruction at all grade levels for the district’s roughly 51,000 students. Currently, children under the age of 12 are not authorized to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
As a separate entity from the city, SFUSD is not subject to San Francisco’s vaccine mandate for its own workforce. In June, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a vaccine requirement for the roughly 37,000 employees of the City and County of San Francisco.
The city’s vaccination order was met with some pushback, most notably from the San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s Association (SFDSA), the union representing sheriffs.
In a statement last week, SFDSA wrote that while the majority of sheriffs are vaccinated, “if deputy sheriffs are forced to vaccinate a percentage of them will retire early or seek employment elsewhere.” Out of 700 deputy sheriffs, 160 are unvaccinated, according to the union.
Meanwhile, with the Delta variant driving an uptick in cases, Breed said two weeks ago that the city is exploring legal options to mandate vaccinations beyond its own workforce.
“As soon as we have the details of what we are able to do, we will do them,” said Breed on July 29.