LAUSD reports overall high staff coronavirus vaccination rates

Overall, 97% of the approximately 73,000 employees in Los Angeles Unified have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot or have been granted a workplace accommodation due to a medical or religious exemption, the nation’s second-largest school district said Tuesday, Oct. 19, one day after its staff vaccine mandate went into effect.

While the vast majority of workers are at least partially vaccinated, that still leaves over 2,200 employees who are unvaccinated and, as of now, not allowed to return to work. Employees who are partially vaccinated must get their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine by Nov. 15 to remain employed.

According to the latest figures provided by the district, 98.5% of employees represented by United Teachers Los Angeles — which includes teachers, counselors, librarians, school nurses and other certificated staff — have received at least one dose of vaccine or an accommodation. The district said Monday that 99% of classroom teachers had met the requirements under its staff vaccination mandate.

The vaccination or accommodation rate among the district’s other main employee groups are: 99.4% for Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents principals and other school site administrators; 95.4% among California School Employees Association members, which represents clerical and office workers; and 95% among Service Employees International Union members.

SEIU Local 99 represents custodians, food service workers, bus drivers, special education assistants and other classified employees. While the union has a higher vaccination rate than three other employee groups, with nearly 1,300 members unvaccinated, SEIU workers make up more than half of all LAUSD employees who have not gotten their COVID-19 shots.

“The district must leave the doors open for workers who have not yet received the vaccine,” SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias said in a statement Monday. By pushing for termination, the district is taking a punitive approach that will deny workers re-employment rights. Many of them are the same workers who just a year ago were hailed as heroes for feeding families and supporting our communities during the height of the pandemic.”

Under the district’s policy, staff members who had not received their first dose of vaccine before Monday and were not granted an accommodation could not report to work. Those workers will be paid through the end of the month and could be fired as early as Nov. 1.

In terms of vaccination rates, the two unions representing school police personnel had the lowest percentages. An estimated 88% of workers in the Los Angeles School Police Management Association, which represents police lieutenants and sergeants, are at least partially vaccinated.

Of the seven employees who haven’t provided proof of vaccination, three are on leave due to injuries and at least two are on vacation but intend to get their shots before returning to work, said Lt. Rob Taylor, president of LASPMA. He said he was aware of only one employee in his organization who would likely resign because they oppose the vaccines on religious grounds.

While some of the employee groups — including the teachers union, the union representing school administrators and SEIU — have expressed support for the staff vaccination mandate, Taylor said he’s taking a neutral stance.

“I support people getting vaccinated, but I also respect people’s choice of religion and all that,” he said. “I am encouraging my people to get vaccinated, but I’m not trying to force them to get vaccinated.”

The head of the Los Angeles School Police Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Among LASPA’s 244 members, 85.2% have received at least one vaccine dose, leaving 36 employees who cannot return to work due to noncompliance with the district’s vaccine mandate.

Taylor acknowledged that having officers out because they haven’t complied with the mandate does jeopardize school safety. However, he said, decisions by the school board over the past 16 months to slash more than a third of the police department’s budget, which resulted in the loss of 133 positions, and to remove officers from campuses in response to demands from Black Lives Matter advocates have done more to imperil the safety of students and staff.

“If I’m looking at a puzzle and the puzzle is already missing half the pieces, and I take three more pieces out, did I ruin the picture a bit? Yes, I did,” he said. “But the puzzle was already ruined. Any loss of officers compromises school safety. … But school safety was already compromised by the cuts and the positions the school board’s taken.”

Typically speaking, law enforcement agencies have reported lower vaccination rates among its workers. The Los Angeles Police Department reported Tuesday that 71% of its officers are now fully vaccinated — after appearing to struggle for most of the year to convince employees to get their shots. The rate started to climb after the city council voted in August to require all city employees to get vaccinated, and the LAPD began to verify employees’ vaccination status.

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