District also mandating employees to be vaccinated by October 1
All the students, teachers and staff at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will be required to wear masks indoors and outdoors on campus and undergo weekly Covid testing when they return to school August 19, the Board of Education decided this week.
At its August 10 meeting, the Board also passed a resolution requiring all district employees to get vaccinated – mirroring a state policy announced by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday amid growing concerns about the highly contagious delta variant.
The new policy applies to public and private schools and will affect the state's 320,000 public school teachers, more than 250,000 support staff and at least 80,000 private school employees, state officials said.
According to SMMUSD officials, all the district employees must report their vaccination status by August 19 and be fully vaccinated by October 1 to be allowed on campus.
"Unvaccinated employees will be excluded from campus and deemed absent without leave, unless a district-authorized exemption or other accommodation has been by an employee," said school officials. "The exemptions could be based on religious grounds, disability, medical and mental health conditions."
The two Board actions were taken "to maintaining the integrity of the learning process as we navigate the inevitable and complex contract tracing decision-making required to limit exposure of COVID- 19," said Supt. Ben Drati.
In a letter to parents, released yesterday, Drati said he wished students could return to school without masks but the contagious delta variant dictated the implementation of new health and safety protocols for the start of the school year.
"Please know that our district team will be caring and compassionate as we implement weekly COVID testing and masking requirements," Drati said. "We will do our best to ensure that testing is understandable, simple, gentle and not scary. While we will be requiring outdoor masking for unsupervised time where many students are congregating, we will also do our best to identify appropriate times where supervision and physical distancing is possible, making outdoor masking unnecessary."
As superintendent, he added, "I must err on the side of ensuring that we have been overly cautious and health-protective, not that we have fallen short and taken unnecessary risks in the face of this new delta variant. I must also use what is available to maximize and maintain the continuity of learning by doing our best to keep students and staff on campus throughout this journey."
Last week, Santa Monica College announced it was mandating vaccines for students and staff on campus this fall. Its classes begin August 30.