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California Is The 1st State To Require Vaccination For All School Staff

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

All teachers and support staff in California schools are going to be required to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing for the coronavirus. Governor Gavin Newsom laid out the new policy as the school year begins. From member station KQED in San Francisco, Julia McEvoy reports.

JULIA MCEVOY, BYLINE: The governor acknowledged many parents are on edge with the rise in the delta variant, and he says this move is crucial.

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GAVIN NEWSOM: We think this will do exactly what it is intended to do, and that's to encourage people to get vaccinated.

MCEVOY: Newsom is giving schools until October 15 to show all employees are immunized or start testing them weekly. Some 300,000 teachers will be affected, plus tens of thousands of school staff, like bus drivers and custodians. By and large, the state's teachers unions are supporting the measure. In Oakland, the school district says 92% of its teachers are already vaccinated. But kids came back to school here this week, and Oakland elementary school teacher Jamila Brooks, who is also a mom, says she wishes the governor had moved faster.

JAMILA BROOKS: This is a very scary time, and anything we could be doing to make our parents feel safer, our kids feel safer, just our whole school safer, you know, we should be doing it.

MCEVOY: Some haven't made up their minds about the new policy. Among them is parent Corvetta Kirtman, who is vaccinated and works in special education.

CORVETTA KIRTMAN: I'm kind of on the fence because I have degrees in health care administration. It is someone's individual health care right if they receive the vaccine or not.

MCEVOY: Kirtman believes more testing of everyone, vaccinated or not, is a better way to prevent COVID from entering schools, since even those who are vaccinated can still carry and spread the virus. Only Los Angeles Unified is regularly testing staff and teachers who are already vaccinated.

As the delta variant spikes, some parents are lobbying not to send their kids back inside classrooms. The state law that allowed for distance learning expired this summer. Newsom has been adamant that all kids return to in-person school.

For NPR News, I'm Julia McEvoy in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.