LAUSD to launch vaccination campaign for students

Convenience is the name of the game when it comes to encouraging students to get their COVID-19 vaccines, so starting next week, the Los Angeles Unified School District will deploy mobile vaccination teams to about 200 school sites — roughly 20 sites per day over two weeks — to get as many shots into students’ arms as possible, Superintendent Austin Beutner has announced.

The announcement comes a week after federal regulators authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use on children ages 12 to 15, a move which state and national officials believe will pave the way for schools across the country to fully reopen when the 2021-22 school year starts.

To encourage students and their families to make use of the mobile vaccination sites in the coming weeks, the district will have food trucks at these events and will reward schools with high enough participation rates.

Details are still being finalized, but the general idea would be that if a certain percentage of students at a school gets vaccinated, that school would be rewarded with money that could pay for items on a school’s wish list, such as a new garden or more library books. The money would come from COVID-19 relief dollars LAUSD is slated to receive from the government, Beutner said in an interview Sunday, May 16.

To accommodate working families, the vaccination teams would be available from about noon to 7 p.m. weekdays, with some Saturday hours offered as well. Additionally, LAUSD will offer district employees paid time off to take their children to get vaccinated, Beutner said, adding that he hopes other businesses will follow suit.

In California, minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, who must give consent, for the child to receive the vaccine, while a handful of states allow some children younger than 18 to decide for themselves or allow vaccine providers to determine if parental consent is necessary.

Beutner said he believes a parent or guardian should give consent, but suggested there could be a “middle ground” where the adult would not need to be physically present for a minor to be vaccinated. A parent could sign a permission slip for their child to be inoculated, similar to when a student goes on a field trip, for example, he said.

This would benefit working parents who might otherwise have to take time off work to take their child to be vaccinated, thus creating another barrier to access, he said.

“(It’s) a real burden for a working family member to have to take time off to go with their 17-year- old” to get vaccinated, he said. “I would love to see California … allow the consent to be given remotely.”

On the issue of masks, Beutner noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent guidance that individuals no longer need to wear masks in most indoor settings nor when they’re outdoors apply to fully vaccinated people.

About 90% of the people on school campuses are children, most of whom have not been vaccinated, he said, so at least for the time being, schools will continue to mandate mask wearing.

“Masking will likely continue until we have a greater portion of children vaccinated,” he said.

The president of the local teachers union also said Friday that masks will continue to be worn on campuses.

“Let me be clear: the CDC advice does not override mask orders issued by states, counties or our bargaining agreement with LAUSD,” union President Cecily Myart-Cruz said. “Masks are still required in L.A. schools, and they are a part of how we keep our communities safe.”

The state and county have not changed their masking guidelines, although LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger urged Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday to immediately relax masking requirements.

Supporting college students

The superintendent also announced Monday a new partnership with Amazon aimed at helping graduating high school seniors who are experiencing financial hardships from having to postpone or give up their pursuit of a college education.

LAUSD graduates who enroll in a local community college full-time will be considered for one of several hundred Amazon jobs with flexible hours that work around students’ class schedules. Jobs could range from working in a distribution center to working at Whole Foods Market, Beutner said.

Beutner said he reached out to Amazon not long after a report came out several weeks ago showing that despite a record graduation rate in LAUSD in 2020, there was a 9% drop in the percentage of students who went on to enroll at a two-year college full-time, and that this most affected low-income students who had to deal with job losses, deaths of loved ones and other challenges during the pandemic that may have forced them to go directly into the workforce to support themselves or their families.

The jobs offered through this program will pay at least $15 per hour and include benefits, Beutner said.

Amazon will also work with teachers to create a cloud-based computing certification program which students in the class of 2022 will be able to take so that when they graduate, they would be eligible for higher-paying jobs, the superintendent said.

Details about the partnership will be discussed at a news conference later this morning.

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