California’s Changing K-12 Vaccine Mandates
- Posted by Team Helios
- On Mar 24, 2022
- 0 Comments
Nearly two years into the pandemic, COVID-19 mitigation measures and vaccines remain a hot topic. K-12 school systems are certainly not excluded from the debate, and the moving targets have left K-12 HR professionals scrambling for solutions.
California has led the charge on COVID-12 mitigation strategies and vaccine mandates in schools. Still, clarity about mandates is lacking for many – and for good reason. Untangling the mandates, orders, and school board votes throughout the state can be a full time job – one that busy HR professionals just don’t have time for.
California’s Vaccine Requirements
In October, Governor Gavin Newsome issued an announcement stating that all students and staff in California schools are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the start of the 2022 – 2023 school year. The requirement is only in place for those able to receive a fully FDA approved vaccine. This is where things get complicated.
The information surrounding vaccine approval in the US can get incredibly confusing. We know – we did the leg work. Currently, there are three brands of vaccines, two different types of FDA approval, and five different age groupings at play.
Governor Newsome’s order applies only if students and staff are able to receive a vaccine that is fully approved by the FDA. At this time, only staff and students 16 and up are able to do so. While that might change before the start of the next year, it complicates the roll out of the mandate. Certainly, all staff members will be included, but keeping track by age group and rolling authorizations might be a headache.
In the meantime, staff vaccine and testing requirements are already in place. While the deadline to comply with state mandated reporting has already passed, consistent reporting remains an expectation. For HR professionals, this is an opportunity to test systems before student vaccination reports are required.
Choose-Your-Own Mandates Create Confusion
Many districts and independent schools are pressing forward for more intensive vaccine mandates – and they’re not interested in waiting until 2023. Already, more than 40 districts around the state have some level of vaccine mandate in place for students, staff, or both. The state board of education has not tracked the information, but we found a helpful searchable database at Cal Matters.
As districts impose – and rescind – mandates, it becomes less clear to both staff and parents what is expected. That is unlikely to change even as Governor Newsome’s mandate takes effect on July 1. While many districts have imposed mandates early in response to the omicron variant, several school boards around the state have already voted on non-compliance with vaccine mandates of any kind.
State Legislature Weighs In
While districts and schools across the state attempt to iron out what is mandated and what is not, the state legislature is also working to create laws surrounding vaccines. A bill put forward in January would require COVID-19 vaccinations for students regardless of full approval. California Senate Bill 871 would amend the public health code to:
- Require a COVID-19 vaccination for enrollment into any public or private school, daycare center, care home, or development center
- Allow vaccine exemptions only for medical reasons and not personal belief
With funding and liability insurance already in danger for school districts planning not to comply with mandates, there is no doubt that this bill will face significant debate in the coming weeks.
Online HR is Vital in Pandemic
The conversation around vaccines is only one of the hundreds of reasons that HR professionals find their jobs to be more difficult during the pandemic. Keeping up with staff communication, compliance reports, and the momentous increase in paperwork surrounding hiring, medical leave, and termination and resignation has created an insurmountable workload for many. Add in shifting targets for mitigation strategies and vaccines, and the load mounts ever higher.
Fully online and paperless HR solutions help reduce the load for many. Reduced processing times and comprehensive systems make the flow of information run more smoothly. As mandates come into effect, these all in one systems make it simple to track employee vaccine status and to communicate accordingly.