Marin County school employees must get vaccinated or tested

The superintendent of Marin County's education office says all adults in public school settings will need to provide proof of vaccination - or a negative COVID test - to start the school year.

When school starts in two weeks, all teachers, administrators and staff will either need to prove they are vaccinated or they tested negative for the virus. 

The move is similar to what the San Jose Unified School District is requiring; all of their teachers and staff will have to be fully vaccinated - or submit to weekly COVID testing to return.

Supt. Mary Jane Burke confirmed the new Marin County policy on Wednesday. 

Later in the afternoon, she and and Marin County public health officers will have an online forum, to give guidance to school districts in the county on how to implement the new policy.

"State public health has provided us a clear pathway about why it's important we have vaccination verification information," she said. "This is a pandemic. This is a public health issue. We know that vaccines matter. We know they can ensure better and stronger levels of safety for students and staff." 

Burke said she doesn't know for sure how many teachers and staff are vaccinated in Marin County but she believes it's very high - somewhere around 90 percent.

But that's part of the reason to verify teachers' vaccination status, she said, to have that concrete data.

Marin County's decision comes just a day after a California lawmaker called on the Legislature to look into making this happen statewide.

Since state and federal government workers will soon be required to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, Sen. Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park) also says it should be the same for public school teachers and staff.

"We're hearing from other parents and we want that safety and security," Becker said at a news conference on Tuesday. "Even if 85 to 90% percent are already vaccinated, what if your kid is interacting with the other 10% who are not? Let's put our kids, first."

Megan Bacigalupi of Open Schools California said her group supports the idea. 

"Individually myself, and Open Schools California, we have come out in support of teacher and staff mandates for vaccines," she said. "In some districts, San Jose was the first, and we certainly support that."

Children under the age of 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated yet.

California Public Health officials say everyone, students and staff, must wear masks indoors, when school starts this fall.

Still, that worries at least one Oakland special education teacher. And Adarene Hoag's concern comes as the teachers union is set to vote on a tentative agreement with the district over reopening on Monday. 

"This is a full reopening, with no social distancing, masks only required inside, not outside," Hoag said. "There's no real way, and teachers and parents know this, that students can be kept safe at school." 

The California Teacher's Association told KTVU that they "support the growing number of school districts who have worked in concert with educators and local unions to develop robust testing and vaccine verification policies."

KTVU staff and Greg Lee contributed to this report.