Oakland’s Plan: Transfer or Unenroll Unvaccinated Students

Public school students in Oakland, Calif., who are 12 or older and have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 by January will either be transferred to an independent-study school or dropped from enrollment entirely, under a plan the district’s Board of Education approved on Wednesday.

Students who are not vaccinated by the Jan. 1 deadline and do not have a valid exemption will be offered a transfer to Sojourner Truth, the district’s “long-term independent study school,” according to a memorandum published by education officials in Oakland on Wednesday.

Unvaccinated students who do not agree to be transferred to that school will be unenrolled “after having been provided with sufficient information and opportunities to access the Covid-19 vaccine as well as progressive warnings,” the memorandum said.

Oakland’s Board of Education voted on Sept. 22 to require students aged 12 or older who attend school in person to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The mandate allows exemptions for medical reasons, personal beliefs, and some others as required by law, according to the memorandum. The board required Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Tramell to make recommendations by the end of October on how to enforce the mandate.

Educators around the country are eager to preserve in-person instruction and school activities, after more than a year of remote and hybrid learning, as health officials expand vaccine eligibility for younger people.

Since September, educators in Los Angeles, Piedmont, San Diego and Berkeley have approved vaccine mandates for students aged 12 or older, according to the memorandum. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said this month that students of all ages throughout the state could be required to be vaccinated to attend school next fall, once the F.D.A. gives full approval for vaccinating them.

Some parents and students in California have welcomed vaccine mandates, saying the requirements will make schools safer. Other parents have argued that students and their families should be free to decide for themselves whether to be vaccinated, and that the mandates would be debilitating for unvaccinated students.

There are more than 35,000 students in the Oakland Unified School District. More than 44 percent are Latino, 22 percent are Black and 6 percent are multiracial, according to the district’s website.

Based on current vaccination rates, the Oakland memorandum said, African American, Latino or multiracial students are more likely than others to be unenrolled under the vaccination policy.

In a letter published on Monday, the district estimated that about 60 percent of its students aged 12 or older were partially or fully vaccinated, based on state data from mid-October.

“We are currently reaching out to each family with a student who is at least 12 years old, whose vaccination status could not be confirmed by the state, so we can share information about where they can get vaccinated, and to update our records about students’ vaccination statuses,” the letter said.

The district adopted the enforcement plan after considering two other options. One would have allowed unvaccinated students to attend classes but would have barred them from participating in activities like sports, field trips, proms or in-person graduation ceremonies. The other would have effectively delayed the deadline for student vaccination until August 2022.

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