Pasadena Unified School District Board Member Tina Fredericks called a press conference outside Willard Elementary School Tuesday evening to set forth demands she and others feel are essential for safely reopening schools.
“PUSD is set to open full-time, in-person, five days a week on Aug. 12, 2021, with no physical distancing requirement, and with students under the age of 12 currently ineligible to be vaccinated,” Fredricks told Beacon Media.
“I do not believe our labor unions are an obstacle. As soon as the Board votes in favor of a vaccine mandate, we can initiate negotiations to ensure fairness and equity. I personally have spoken to many teachers and staff members who support a vaccine requirement for employees. They want to work in the safest environment possible for themselves, the students and the community, but the countdown is on. Once a vaccine mandate is approved, it takes weeks for vaccines to reach maximum effectiveness. Lives are on the line. We do not have time to delay.
“To clarify the statement made by California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, even though a statewide mandate of vaccines for all K-12 schools would take action by our state legislators, individual school districts, as employers are well within their rights to enforce a vaccine mandate. To those who question whether a vaccine mandate is possible, Santa Barbara Unified School Board and San Jose Unified School District Board as well as University of California system, and California State University system, recently passed vaccine mandates and/or mandatory COVID testing.
“PUSD must act now for the sake of the children, staff, their families, and the community. We cannot wait until the next general meeting on Aug. 26 which is two weeks from the first day of school. I’m calling on PUSD to immediately call an emergency special meeting so the Board can convene at earliest [Wednesday] evening for a swift vote to support the vaccine mandate,” Fredericks read from her prepared statement to the media.
“While it has been reported that PUSD has a 96% vaccination rate of its employees, this means 89 employees are unvaccinated. A 96% vaccination rate is irrelevant to the 2,225 elementary students or more who will be assigned to schools or classrooms with unvaccinated personnel. An elementary school student who ends up with an unvaccinated teacher will share space, share air with that teacher five days a week, six hours a day,” Fredericks added.
After Fredericks read her prepared speech, Mayor Victor Gordo said that the time to act is now and not wait until the next PUSD School Board meeting slated for Aug. 26.
“These parents and children are here to say, ‘Let’s not wait until Aug. 26, nearly two weeks after school has started. Let’s not wait until then and look back and wonder what we could have done differently. Now is the time to act,” Gordo stated emphatically.
“I’m going to upset some people on this, but I think we should [require teacher vaccinations],” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated in an interview with MSNBC Tuesday. “I mean we are in a critical situation now. We’ve had 615,000-plus deaths and we are in a major surge now as we’re going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business.”
As of Wednesday morning, PUSD had made no attempt to add the employee vaccination mandate on the next agenda. However, this all became a moot point when Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday afternoon a statewide order requiring all school staff — including teachers, custodians, bus drivers and others —to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing.