SMMUSD will hold a School Board meeting on Oct. 21 and continue discussions over a potential vaccine mandate in light of Governor Gavin Newsom’s recently announced statewide mandate.

Newsom issued the nation’s first statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for school children on Oct. 1, making vaccinations mandatory for all private and public school students as soon as vaccines receive full FDA approval.

Based on current FDA timelines, the State expects this rule to apply to students in grades 7-12 by July 2022. Under the current mandate, exemptions can be granted for parents’ personal beliefs, but the State legislature could vote to remove this exemption at a later time.

Newsom said that students are already required to receive vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella and that there is no reason for COVID-19 to be treated differently.

Many parents do not agree. Just this week, more than a thousand people crowded the front steps of the California Capitol to protest Newsom’s decision. In the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, public comment in recent School Board meetings has been dominated by parents who are opposed to a vaccine mandate.

According to County of Los Angeles Public Health, 83% of 12 to 17 year olds in SMMUSD are vaccinated.

Prior to the announcement of Newsom’s mandate, Board members discussed a draft of their own potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate in a Sept. 22 meeting.

SMMUSD’s previously proposed plan would have required all students 12 years old and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have a medical or other exemption. The resolution that was discussed did not set deadlines for when the potential mandate would come into effect.

Thursday’s discussions will not be centered around a resolution, but be more of an open ended discussion responding to the governor’s mandate.

“This is an ever changing situation. We have pivots and adjust daily to everything. We have had to stay nimble and adjust all in the name of what is best for ongoing in-person instruction while ensuring the health and safety of our students and staff,” said Public Information Officer Gail Pinsker.

Six out of the seven SMMUSD board members were in favor of adding a vaccine mandate in the September meeting. Craig Foster was the lone opponent. He stated, “Americans are willing to give up precious freedoms to try and prevent the fear of the day. I personally want absolutely no part of forcing anybody else to put a needle in their arm.”

The vaccine mandate is back on the agenda this week under a discussion item that also includes information requested at the Sept. 22 meeting such as weekly screening testing data, staff and student vaccination rates, and supports that have been put in place for sixth graders who need to quarantine. An update will also be provided on new shortened quarantine options in line with changes announced by the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

As Newsom’s vaccine mandate is part of a discussion item, no action will be taken to enforce a local mandate. However, a mandate could come back as a resolution for Board Member approval at a future meeting.

This section of the meeting is time stamped to begin at 7 p.m. and is earmarked for one hour of discussion, however Pinkser said she expects it to go much longer.

The overall public portion of the meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and can be live streamed by visiting https://www.smmusd.org/domain/2977.

Daniel@smdp.com