Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, will require all middle and high school students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Jan. 3, 2022, according to a districtwide announcement by Brent Stephens, BUSD superintendent.
Currently, 80% of all students ages 12 and older and 92% of BUSD staff are fully vaccinated, according to BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott. Stephens’ announcement also stated that students who are not fully vaccinated will be required to complete one on-site test a week.
“We know that the combination of the risk mitigation strategies recommended by our public health partners have helped to keep our schools safe and open,” McDermott said. “These strategies help to ensure there is very little transmission in our schools.”
As of right now, the district only tracks the vaccination status of students ages 12 and older because children ages 5 to 11 have had little opportunity to receive the vaccine, according to McDermott. She added that within days of vaccination eligibility being expanded to those as young as 5 years old, the district hosted vaccination clinics at BUSD elementary school sites.
McDermott said follow-up vaccination clinics will be located on elementary school sites in the district this month and there will also be clinics on the adult school campus in late December, allowing BUSD staff members to receive booster shots.
“Berkeley Unified is very lucky because we have a local health department; most cities don’t,” McDermott said. “This local relationship has really benefited the district and our school community in making vaccines accessible very quickly.”
Though the omicron variant has recently arrived in the Bay Area, McDermott and school district officials believe their COVID-19 policies will remain unchanged.
In a letter addressed to BUSD families, Stephens expressed that he believes the district’s testing, tracing and vaccination efforts will be a strong enough defense against the new variant.
“If anything, omicron is just a reminder to all of us that COVID is not going away anytime soon, and we have to remain vigilant,” McDermott said.