First published in the Sept. 4 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Joining a growing number of educational institutions throughout California, the Glendale Unified School District this week approved a mandate that its employees all be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The GUSD Board of Education unanimously voted to require that all district staff prove that they have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single Johnson & Johnson inoculation by Nov. 1. Previously, the district had required that nonvaccinated faculty and staff members undergo weekly coronavirus testing.The district is building on precedent being established in nearby districts. In recent weeks, the Los Angeles Unified School District has implemented a vaccine mandate for staff — a demand publicly made by its teachers’ union. Los Angeles County also has imposed a mandate for all of its employees. The California State University and University of California systems have required vaccinations for students and staff members, and last month Glendale Community College also made such a decree.
“I think it’s essential that we do this at this level for our staff,” GUSD board member Greg Krikorian said at Tuesday’s meeting. “This isn’t going away. It’s an important piece that we need to do.”
While the labor unions for teachers and other employees have generally agreed with the mandate, they and GUSD continue to negotiate the step-by-step process by which a nonvaccinated employee would exit the district.
Ahead of the school year, officials have monitored a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths driven primarily by the Delta variant of COVID-19. The GUSD, like other school districts, returned to full in-person instruction this year, a move that has generated fear of classroom outbreaks among students — the youngest of whom still cannot be vaccinated.
Pfizer’s vaccine recently received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration for people age 16 and older, while it retains an emergency use authorization for those 12-15 years old. Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines remain under emergency-use status for adults.
As of Aug. 27, at least 2,798 of the district’s employees — representing 83.6% of the total — had responded to a survey asking to upload proof of vaccination. Of the respondents, 82.2% have proved they are fully vaccinated, while 2.3% were partially inoculated. The district is following up on the 549 teachers and staff members who have not provided input. A district official added that many non-respondents are non-regular staff members, such as substitute teachers or walk-on coaches who do not consistently attend campuses.
Among Glendale’s 12-17-year-olds, the L.A. County Department of Public Health reported this week that 5,936 have received at least one dose of a vaccine, representing 51.3% of that population here. The county also is reporting that nearly all 12-17-year-olds living in unincorporated La Crescenta-Montrose have gotten at least their first dose.
Since the start of the school year, the district has identified 72 confirmed COVID-19 cases among its 24,717 enrolled students and four among its 2,930 staffers. The cases have resulted in a total of 6,645 quarantines among students and employees so far, a number likely driven by the fact that the GUSD is requiring entire classrooms at a time to quarantine, not just the identified close-proximity exposures.
Of the infected students, 41 have been identified within the past 10 days (the maximum quarantine period for any exposures). No teachers have been diagnosed in the past 10 days.
The district says that contact tracing has yet to identify any instances of COVID-19 transmission at a school site.