Oakland schools delays student COVID vaccine requirement deadline

Oakland Unified School District officials say they won't be enforcing the student COVID vaccine mandate until January 31. That's four weeks later than they originally planned.

The original deadline for district students was January 1. That's when students 12 years old and up had to either show proof of the COVID vaccine or face distance learning again.

"The feedback we were getting from families was they had not gotten the forms in time to get through the process. So that's why we extended it," said school board vice-President Sam Davis.

There also may be a more troubling reason. The district says as of November, 39% of Oakland students have not been vaccinated.

"We were hoping it would come down faster than it has. So we are trying to get the information out there," said Davis.

The Oakland school board adopted the student vaccine mandate in September, which originally gave parents a full three months before it would take effect.

The board said having students vaccinated would make students and staff safer from COVID.

But district officials and some parents are concerned about unintended consequences of keeping unvaccinated students from campus

"A lot of the kids who are going to be excluded from school and then have to transition to the virtual academy are some of the same kids who suffered from being out of school most of last year," said Megan Bacigalupi, an Oakland parent and executive director of California Parent Power.

School officials are hoping one more month of education and outreach, plus news of the Omicron variant may persuade hesitant families to get vaccinated.

"Some principals have really made it a priority to reach out to the unvaccinated students. That's why we want to extend the deadline to make sure that outreach can bear fruition," said Davis.