LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education agreed Tuesday to delay enforcement of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students until fall 2022, preventing more than 30,000 students from being forced into online, independent study.
The district's mandate previously required all students aged 12 and up to receive their second dose of vaccine by Dec. 19. Students taking part in extracurricular programs were required to receive their second dose by Oct. 31.
Students who failed to meet the mandate would be forced into remote-learning programs.
But in a statement Friday, the district announced plans to delay the mandate until the start of the next school year, in light of the overall high vaccination rate among students. Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly told the board Tuesday the vaccination rate among students now tops 87%.
The district's mandate does not include students under age 12, who are only encouraged - but not required - to get vaccinated.
Even with an 87% compliance rate, however, more than 30,000 students who are failing to meet the mandate were in danger of being pushed into remote learning when classes resume in mid-January.
District officials said they will continue working to ensure all students have access to vaccines, and that their families receive information they need "to make an informed choice" about vaccinating their children.
Board member Jackie Goldberg issued a statement saying the delay was a sensible move, noting that "taking teachers out of in-person classrooms so they can instruct the much smaller number of unvaccinated students in the state-mandated online independent study program penalizes all students with fewer instructors and larger class sizes."
But she insisted the district is not backing down from mandating the shots, despite another round of often-vitriolic comments from parents who lambasted the board during the meeting, calling the vaccine an experimental medication with no long-term track record of efficacy and no extended study of possible long-term side effects.
"The science is clear: vaccinations protect us," Goldberg said. "This pandemic is not over, and LAUSD may delay the eligible student vaccination deadline but will uphold the requirement."
While delaying the mandate itself, the board also voted Tuesday to expand the requirement to include all charter schools authorized by the district, regardless of their location. The original mandate applied only to charter schools that were co-located on LAUSD campuses.
The district will continue to require baseline and weekly testing of all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, through January. Beginning in February, only unvaccinated students will be required to undergo weekly testing.
"Abundant praise and gratitude to the Los Angeles Unified students and families who have already met the vaccination requirement, staff who have worked under extreme hardship with grace and professionalism and our partners, who have supported our health and safety efforts," Reilly said in her statement last week. "Together, we continue to move toward the best and safest possible learning environment for all students and families."