FJUHSD mandates vaccines for entire staff, offers secondary option to test weekly for unvaccinated

English+teacher+Tom+Wiegman+holds+up+the+COVID-19+Vaccination+Record+Card+he+received+after+being+vaccinated+with+the+first+dose+of+the+Pfizer+vaccine+in+March+2021+and+the+second+dose+in+April+2021.+The+Fullerton+Joint+Union+High+School+District+%5BFJUHSD%5D+sent+out+an+email+Sept.+2+to+all+staff+mandating+vaccination+verification+to+fulfill+a+state+requirement+that+the+governor+signed+into+law+Aug.+11.+Anyone+working+in+the+FJUHSD+who+chooses+not+to+be+vaccinated+must+take+a+COVID-19+test+on+a+weekly+basis+beginning+Oct.+18.

Audrey Seo

English teacher Tom Wiegman holds up the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card he received after being vaccinated with the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in March 2021 and the second dose in April 2021. The Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] sent out an email Sept. 2 to all staff mandating vaccination verification to fulfill a state requirement that the governor signed into law Aug. 11. Anyone working in the FJUHSD who chooses not to be vaccinated must take a COVID-19 test on a weekly basis beginning Oct. 18.

By Kate Yang, Sunny Hills High School

In compliance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new public health order, the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] announced, through an email sent to students and parents on Sept. 3, its decision to mandate full vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing of all staff working for the district.

“This mandate is definitely necessary,” said sophomore Addison Cannon, who received the Pfizer vaccine in June. “Not only would it make parents feel more comfortable sending their child to school each day, but it will be a small step toward getting to a state of somewhat normalcy.”

The California public health order, signed Aug. 11, applies to all eligible K-12 school workers with the purpose of minimizing the risk of transmission from staff to students.

FJUHSD staff had until Sept. 3 to complete the Self-Attestation of COVID-19 Vaccination Survey, administered through Qualtrics; however, weekly testing for unvaccinated individuals will not begin until Oct. 18.

Cannon, who advocates for the vaccination of everyone who is eligible, feels safer knowing that most, if not all, of her teachers will receive the vaccine and hopes to see more students getting vaccinated as a result.

“There most likely will not be a risk of having the virus be spread from teacher to student now,” she said. “Also, having staff be fully vaccinated will set a good example for parents still on the fence about whether their children should be getting vaccinated or not.”

Computer science and math teacher Myra Deister, who received the Moderna vaccine in February, believes that the new mandate will bring about a lower COVID-19 positivity rate among students and staff.

“I feel [the requirement] will [slow the spread of COVID-19],” Deister said. “[The vaccine] should protect the person who is vaccinated from developing severe symptoms that many have experienced at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Even with the required vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing for staff, she wants the staff and students to continue taking preventative measures to ensure safety on campus.

“I feel that COVID-19 testing should continue for staff and students, especially if there are new strains that move into our area and the number of cases increase,” she said.

Teachers union president E. Toby Boyd issued the following statement:

“Educators want to be in classrooms with their students, and the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone who is medically eligible to be vaccinated, with robust testing and multi-tiered safety measures,” Boyd wrote. “Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities.”

FJUHSD assistant superintendent Karl Zener told The Accolade that once the district has collected the data for who’s vaccinated and who will need COVID-19 testing, it will not reveal the vaccination status of any of its staff members for privacy reasons.

But some Sunny Hills students want the district to consider doing so.

“Knowing whether someone is vaccinated or unvaccinated is not a personal topic,” Cannon said. “It’s not like asking for a credit card number or Social Security number [because] it’s simply a question of whether you’ll be safe in close proximity to your teacher.”

Parent Teacher Student Association [PTSA] president Nivie Jhawar, who received the Moderna vaccine in early January, also stands in full support of the district’s mandate.

“It made perfect sense to me,” Jhawar said. “In the medical profession, we are required to do the same. Makes sense that teachers and staff who work closely with kids should be vaccinated as an additional level of protection.”

In contrast to Cannon and other students, the PTSA president sided with the district’s decision to keep all COVID-19 vaccination date private.

“I understand that some individuals are sensitive [to] others knowing they are vaccinated and even more sensitive [about] others know that they are testing weekly because they are not vaccinated,” Jhawar said. “So I respect people’s privacy, and if they don’t want to share that information publicly, that is OK.”

Working in the medical field, Jhawar advocates for the vaccination of all those eligible and commends the district for further enforcing it.

“We have seen what happens when there is no close monitoring or vaccination recommendations,” she said. “We need to get control of this situation, and politics aside, the vaccine is the best method we have currently to prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading even more.”

We need to get control of this situation, and politics aside, the vaccine is the best method we have currently to prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading even more.”

— PTSA President Nivie Jhawar

English teacher Tom Wiegman, also an advocate for vaccination, stands by the district’s decision to mandate vaccination or weekly testing.

“I am personally in favor of getting vaccinated,” Wiegman said. “I don’t know that I would be in favor of forcing everyone to get vaccinated, so having the weekly testing alternative, I liked.”

He received the Pfizer vaccine in March, but unlike Deister, he does not know how effective the district’s new mandate will be in lowering COVID-19 positive case rates on campus.

“I don’t think it’s going to make too big of a difference,” Wiegman said. “It might be as far as teachers not giving the virus to students, but students are already at a very low risk category based on the statistics.”

Even senior Noah Eastman, an anti-vaxxer, supports the district’s new vaccination requirement.

“I just feel like the staff vaccination requirement is safer for the students that don’t get the vaccine, so they can feel safer about the teachers having it,” Eastman said.

He acknowledges the vaccine’s ability in preventing the spread of COVID-19 yet believes it will simultaneously harm the body with unknown toxins.

“The government lies about how many more people have died from the vaccine than the actual virus because they just want our money,” Eastman said. “The government is putting things in our body that [not only] kills the virus, but also kills you, too.”

Eastman commends vaccinated teachers for sacrificing their health to protect students and only hopes that they can remain healthy.

“I feel like [vaccinated teachers] are putting their lives at risk,” he said. “I just hope they eat well and drink a lot of fluids to keep their immune systems high.”

WILL STUDENTS ALSO NEED TO SHOW PROOF OF VACCINATION?

FJUHSD sent an email to students Sept. 10 with the link to a complete a “Self-Attestation of COVID Vaccine Status” survey by Sept. 12; however, the district does not plan to enforce vaccines for students unless required by the state, which is what happened Friday, Oct. 1.

Nearly a month after the Los Angeles Unified School District [LAUSD] announced Sept. 9 its decision to require vaccination for all students 12 years of age and older, forcing the unvaccinated to either receive the vaccine or transfer out of the district, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the first statewide mandate in the nation for students 12 and older.

“The mandate goes into effect in the first semester once the vaccine is fully authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for each respective age group,” wrote FJUHSD superintendent Steve McLaughlin. “Pending this approval, the mandates may go into effect either January 1, 2022, or July 1, 2022. The governor stated that exemptions for medical and/or religious and personal beliefs would apply.”

This story was originally published on The Accolade on October 1, 2021.