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San Diego Unified COVID-19 vaccine mandate on hold until further notice

San Diego Unified is putting its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on hold until further notice. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has more on what happens now.

The San Diego Unified School District cannot enforce its highly promoted COVID-19 vaccination mandate. It is on hold until further notice.

At the moment, the district’s attorneys are working on their appeal to last week’s legal setback following a ruling by by a San Diego County judge. The judge reiterated that the district cannot enforce a mandate requiring eligible students 16 and up to be fully vaccinated. In December, the judge ruled that the county’s largest school district does not have legal authority to do that, and it is only the state legislature that can approve a requirement.

“The mandate will not go into effect until further notice, and it is very unlikely that it will be in place by the start of the spring semester on the 24th,” Board Trustee Richard Barrera told KPBS News on Wednesday.

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The school board had set that deadline for eligible students as a requirement to return to in-person classes for the remainder of the school year. The plan had been for those students who did not comply to be banned from on-campus learning and forced to attend through the Virtual Academy.

“If the legislature moved forward and acted,” Barrera said, “then our district and other districts would be able to implement a vaccine mandate.”

With no immediate legislation pending, San Diego Unified is left in a legal limbo. The school district has been aggressive in its efforts to get as many of its staff and more than 100,000 students, and their families vaccinated to stop the spread of the omicron variant surge. For now, the only option is to simply keep pushing vaccinations with a warning to those who refuse.

“It’s not a matter of if you will get COVID — it’s a matter of when you will get COVID. Because we’re testing regularly, if your student is positive for COVID, they are not going to be able to come to school,” Barrera said.