First published in the Sept. 17 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously in favor of a vaccine requirement for employees, bringing its mitigation strategies against COVID-19 to a more stringent level.
The mandate requires all SPUSD employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 14. Employees may request an accommodation and district administrators will have to determine whether the accommodation is valid and can be met.
“As I think about the employees that we are responsible to and the students to whom we are also responsible,” board member Patricia Martinez-Miller said, “not having people employed by us vaccinated to keep them safe would really violate our purpose.”
Superintendent Geoff Yantz said at Tuesday’s meeting that the district was going to email out correspondence on Wednesday with details on the mandate and information on accommodation.
“More and more districts are beginning to move in this direction,” Yantz said. “While it is not completely common, it’s become a discussion topic for most districts.”
SPUSD’s decision is the latest domino in the cascade of vaccination mandates for educators across the state.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, with strong support from its teachers union, imposed a vaccine requirement for all district employees in August, with a deadline of Oct. 15. That district also became the first major school system in the nation to implement a vaccination requirement for eligible students.
Glendale and Burbank unified school districts also have adopted mandates for employees. The University of California and California State University systems have imposed universal mandates to physically access campus facilities, as have local institutions such as Glendale Community College and Pasadena City College. (Unvaccinated students there may enroll in remote or virtual programming.)
The South Pasadena school board did not discuss student vaccinations publicly this week, but its members acknowledged that it was relevant.
The meeting also included a presentation on COVID-19 and children from Dr. Ken Zangwill, the division chief of pediatric infectious diseases and director of infection prevention and control at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The presentation noted that pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19 decreased in July and that mitigations in schools so far have been effective.
In a study of about 3,150 K-12 schools in Los Angeles County, 60% had zero cases, 8% had two cases and 33% had more than three cases since the start of the school year.
Mitigations at SPUSD schools include universal masking indoors, ventilation upgrades, weekly testing for in-season athletes, on-site testing and isolation rooms as well as daily disinfection.
In South Pasadena, two cases were identified at Marengo Elementary School and South Pasadena High in August. One case was reported at Arroyo Vista Elementary at the start of September.
There are 4,660 students enrolled in SPUSD schools this year and 425 employees work there.
Zangwill also presented statistics on vaccination within L.A. County. As of Sept. 9, at least 5,366,304 county residents have been fully vaccinated and fewer than 1% of them have tested positive for COVID-19, per county health officials. Zangwill also emphasized the safety of vaccines.
“I cannot think of a vaccine that is currently licensed that leads to a long-term significant side effect beyond six weeks of vaccination,” he said. “People bring all kinds of personal experience, cultural experience and other experience information to their decisions to taking the vaccine. I would just actively encourage folks who have concerns to at least base your final decision on good information.”