Unvaccinated students in Oakland to transfer or be dropped from enrollment in January

Unvaccinated students in Oakland to transfer or be dropped from enrollment in January
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Children in Oakland, Calif., who are over the age of 12 and remain unvaccinated against the coronavirus by next year will be transferred to independent study schools or dropped from public school enrollment.

The Board of Education for the district approved the plan on Wednesday. It will offer students who do not have a proper exemption the opportunity to transfer to Sojourner Truth, the district’s "long-term independent study school" before unenrolling them entirely, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The students who remain unvaccinated after Jan. 1 and choose not to accept the transfer would be dropped "after having been provided with sufficient information and opportunities to access the Covid-19 vaccine as well as progressive warnings," according to the Times.

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The school district published a letter on Monday that said all students must be vaccinated or have an exemption to attend school in-person starting in January. The letter, which followed approval last month of a vaccine mandate for students ages 12 and older, added that only vaccinated students would be able to participate in extracurricular activities.

In an emailed statement to The Hill, John Sasaki, the district's director of communications, said that the school expected the new policies to prompt more vaccinations among students in addition to offering exemptions and the option to transfer.

"We expect the overwhelming majority of our currently unvaccinated students to be covered by one of those three options," Sasaki added in an emailed statement to The Hill. "We will work very hard to ensure every student knows all the options that they have, we will continue to educate them and their families about the importance, safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and as a very last resort, unenrolling a student would be a possibility."

The Oakland Unified School District has more than 35,000 students, and it estimated that 60 percent of its students age 12 and older were at least partially vaccinated as of mid-October, according to data from the state. 

"We are currently reaching out to each family with a student who is at least 12 years old, whose vaccination status could not be confirmed by the state, so we can share information about where they can get vaccinated, and to update our records about students’ vaccination statuses," the letter said.

Last month, the same district was the first in Northern California to mandate vaccines for students ages 12 and up. Before Oakland's decision, the Los Angeles Unified School District also issued a vaccine mandate in early September.

--Updated on Oct. 31 at 12:38 p.m.