As schools prepare to reopen five days a week amid an alarming surge in the coronavirus, Los Angeles and Chicago, the nation’s second and third largest counties, on Friday announced some of their strongest teacher vaccine mandates yet.
Teachers and school staff in both cities will have to receive the full vaccination by October 15. School begins in Los Angeles on August 16 and in Chicago on August 30.
In Los Angeles, district employees will also have to undergo regular virus screening, regardless of vaccination status. In Chicago, employees will be tested weekly until the vaccine deadline. Both systems He said there will be an exemption process for those with disabling medical conditions or sincere religious beliefs.
Both California and Illinois require everyone to use masks inside schools when they reopen.
New vaccine mandates will put pressure on other large school systems, particularly those in liberal states, to establish similar policies. New York City, the largest area in the country, is Currently planning To provide teachers with a choice between vaccination or a weekly virus test.
Leaders from both the national teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have said they support the vaccine mandates, but the details will have to be negotiated locally.
Nearly 90 percent of teachers in the country are vaccinated, according to A reconnaissance Education Week. However, a small but vocal group of lay teachers oppose the vaccine requirements.
After 18 months of closing classes and mixed schedules, families and schools were planning to return to normal life this fall. research From the previous school year it has shown that schools can operate relatively safely using mitigation strategies such as masking, distancing, hand washing and ventilation.
There are some reassuring evidence From the UK that during the delta boost in June, schools remained among the safest places for children to spend time. But it’s unclear whether the delta variant presents a greater risk in US schools, given the mixture of mitigation strategies.
Before the Chicago vaccine mandate was announced, Kenzo Shibata, a high school social studies teacher in the area, had considered asking for leave. He said a colleague with whom he worked closely had been “steadfast” in her refusal to be vaccinated – a major concern for Mr. Shibata, whose wife is undergoing cancer treatment and whose immunity is compromised. Their son is too young to be vaccinated.
On Friday, Mr. Shibata said he was optimistic about the district’s mandate, although he remained concerned about fellow teachers asking for waivers.
“I think that will reduce the risk significantly,” he said. “I still don’t feel like five days a week personally is a good idea, but this is a step in the right direction.”