In the shadow of a 31-student quarantine at John Muir Elementary School and SMASH, the SMMUSD school board has decided to shelve talks of a vaccine mandate as the country continues to debate this hot topic. Board members expressed concern with Governor Gavin Newsom’s vaccine mandate for students due to its inclusion of personal exemptions and vagueness of a formal timeline.

The next school board meeting on Nov. 4 will not include talks of a vaccine mandate according to Community & Public Relations Officer Gail Pinkser. Pinkser said the subject could return for discussion on Nov. 18 if the emergency use authorization is lifted and the vaccine has full FDA authorization for children 12 years of age and up. SMMUSD’s next board meeting will be focused on the school’s budget, staff shortage and daily education.

Gov. Newsom’s Oct. 1 press release announced plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required for school children to attend in-person learning in California. The plan includes a personal exemption for religious views and personal ideology.

School Board President Jon Kean stated “I do not want to fight to push something through if it has a personal exemption attached to it.”

Members of the board agreed with Kean’s stance pertaining to the personal exemption.

“The state acted years ago to remove personal exemptions from vaccinations because of the outbreaks that we saw with measles, whooping cough and it was detrimental to our kids,” Board member Jennifer Smith said. “I think that those actions proved beneficial for kids.”

Newsom’s press release did not result in a change in the law since it was not an executive order.

“He [Newsom] put out a press release, not an executive order. As such the press release does not constitute a change in the law,” Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said.

Newsom’s press release also lacks a clear timeline as to when the mandate would be put into effect while vaccines are still waiting for full FDA approval for children ages 12-17. Based on current information the vaccine requirement is expected to apply to grades 7th-12th beginning July 1, 2022.

“It’s clear that the Governor has indicated that we as a state are moving towards mandatory vaccinations, how, when, where, is not defined,” Kean said.

Due to the uncertainty and the personal exemption, the district halted talks on a vaccine mandate until a formal decision came down from the Governor.

In the meantime, Drati will reach out to each board member individually and get their take on a vaccine mandate, then devise a plan and be prepared to mandate the vaccine if the emergency use authorization is lifted and the vaccine has full FDA approval.

Based on open board discussion, it appears that only one member, Craig Foster, is not in favor of a vaccine mandate.

“Let’s give ourselves a mental health timeout on this subject [vaccine mandates], because who knows what’s going to come up between now and then that might move this in a whole other direction,” Foster said.

Culver City students are required to be vaccinated by Nov. 19. Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach Unified School Districts remain undecided. LA Unified School District is requiring all students 12 and older to by fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January.