Oakland School Board Outlines Enforcement of Vaccine Mandate for Students

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While much of the talk this week has been about launching the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, the Oakland Unified School District is still making decisions on vaccinating students 12 and older.

Oakland Unified is one of the first big school districts to outline specifics on its vaccine mandate for students. On Wednesday night, the school board adopted the following:

  • Non-exempt, unvaccinated students will have to transfer to independent study.
  • Those who do not will be unenrolled.
  • Either option will apply only after offering students and their families information and opportunity to be vaccinated.

Trustees in September voted 5-1 with one abstention in favor of a vaccine requirement for all students 12 and older. Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell indicated the requirement would go into effect no earlier than Jan. 1, so as to be less disruptive during the middle of the fall semester and to give students time to get their required vaccination.

Reasons for exemption include medical, personal belief and students who have had a single vaccine dose and are waiting to receive a second shot.

"Bottom line is that if anybody has an exemption, they will be allowed to attend school," District spokesman John Sasaki said. "Anybody who does not have an exemption will be offered a place at Sojourner Truth, which is our independent study program.

The district said it is working on expanding its independent study program and is working on reaching out to the families of unvaccinated children ahead of time to let them know about the vaccine mandate. District officials said they will continue to host weekly vaccine sites at different campuses to help parents get their kids vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Bay Area mask mandates are tied to the overall vaccination, including vaccination for children 5 to 11. Health experts say allowing students to stop masking at school is a great incentive for vaccination.

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