Virus Outbreak California Schools Parents

In this Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, file photo, Evelyn Guillen with her three-year-old son, joins anti-vaccine mandate protesters outside the Los Angeles Unified School District administrative offices in Los Angeles. Parents in California on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, had mixed reactions to Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for schoolchildren once they're fully approved by the FDA.

The massive state-wide protests that kept some students out of school on Monday, October 18, 2021 in an effort to make a statement against COVID 19 vaccines for students might have come up short in making an impact.

The Victor Valley saw digital artwork that referred to the local version of the demonstration as a "Freedom of Choice" protest flood social media feeds in an effort to bring awareness to a COVID-19 state requirement that has not been mandated for students in public schools. 

Locally, parents, teachers and various supporters rallied outside their school districts with posters and signs to show their dismay for Newson's requirement for COVID-19 vaccinations in children. Many supporters in these protests believe that the requirement will turn into a vaccine mandate for children.

It should be noted that "mandate" and "requirement" have two different meanings. What it boils down to is mainstream media, mixed with the confusion and lack of research from many, complicate and blur the lines with the proper or legal meaning. The word "mandate" means an official or authoritative command; an order or injunction; a commission; a judicial instruction. The word "requirement" means a necessity or prerequisite; something asked. A synonym for requirement could be the word mandatory which is also not interchangeable with the word mandate. California has not authorized a vaccine mandate for children in the K-12 school system. The COVID-19 shot has been officially declared as a requirement.  

California Senate Bill 277 does use legal verbiage that suggests a mandate of vaccinations that a student may need to receive before their first day at "any private or public elementary or secondary school, child care center, day nursery, nursery school, family day care home, or development center." However, that very law also says that the mandate is only required if "exemptions are allowed for both medical reasons and personal beliefs."

Unlike Senate Bill 277, official communication from Governor Newsom's office in Sacramento does not communicate a mandate, rather a requirement. Earlier this month HDdailynews.com observed large amounts of confusion and frustration for school board members, parents and teachers in Hesperia Unified School District and Apple Valley Unified School District who believe their school districts may force their child to get the COVID-19 vaccine shot. 

So back to Monday this past week.

The protests may have come up short as the demonstrations were done on the Monday directly following a one week Fall break in most school districts locally. Historically, Mondays tend to have less kids in attendance on the first day back to school. HDdailynews.com reached out to AVUSD, HUSD, VESD, VVUHSD and one charter school to get a better grasp at the numbers for the first day back to school. This is what was discovered: 

AVUSD

In Apple Valley, school district officials say that the current district-wide population is 13,784 students. Attendance on October 18 saw 78% of students in-class. The district noted that according to Senate Bill 130 and 167, which governs attendance for districts, that the number of those who were in-class "includes independent study students who have not yet completed work for that day. Once work is complete, those 'absences' are changed to present based on the quantity of work."

When HDdailynews.com asked the district to compare attendance on Monday, October 18, 2021 to the same Mondays after Fall breaks in prior years, school officials said that in prior years they saw a "slight uptick" in absences that immediately followed after a long break.  

HUSD

School officials in Hesperia tell HDdailynews.com that total enrollment in their district is 22,459 students. Similar to AVUSD, the district saw a total attendance of a little more than 79% who attended Monday, October 18, 2021. Officials say this was their first year having a Fall break so they don't have previous years to compare it to. 

VVUHSD

Despite multiple attempts to get hard numbers from Victor Valley Union High School District, our requests were not delivered. However, the district has around 11,200 students spread out between Victorville and Adelanto. School officials told us that on Monday, after a district-wide phone call with their principals, it did not appear that attendance was severely impacted. They noted that they have seen significantly higher numbers of absenteeism because of COVID-19 precautions. Regarding Monday, October 18, 2021, officials stated "we are not seeing a significantly higher number of students or staff missing school today."

VESD

The largest school district in Victorville is Victor Elementary School District. Which has about 12,500 students currently enrolled. The school district reported that they had 2,136 absences on October 18, 2021. That means they had 83% who showed up for class.  When asked about the comparison of absences following a week-long break in prior years, VESD says that they typically see around a 10% increase in absences.

Academy for Academic Excellence 

HDdailynews.com also reached out to a charter school, which operate independently from larger school districts, to see if protests on October 18, 2021 affected school operations. 

AAE has almost 1500 students currently enrolled in the school. On the first day back to school after Fall break they saw 305 students absent. That's almost 20% of the student population being a no show to class which is similar to what we found at other school districts who were around 79%. School officials did say though that the number was more than double as around 130 absences is average on the Monday following a Fall break historically. 

There is one more piece to some of the logic circling around some of those that are against the vaccination requirement from Governor Newsom. Many parents believe that by not putting their children in school last Monday, it somehow affects a district's overall budget for next school year. But that's not how it works.

On average it's a little over $9,000 per kid to be enrolled in a California school. The key word is "enrolled." If a child is enrolled in a school district they are automatically counted for next year's budget. 

Ever hear of J13a? 

A special waiver is available to schools and districts in the event that there are "emergency conditions." According to the California Department of Education website "in the event of a closure due to emergency conditions there is not an immediate impact to LCFF funding and there is not a specific deadline to submit a Form J-13A, thus there is not an urgent need to file Form J-13A in the midst of the emergency event."

It's unclear if the form applies to massive walkouts or sudden disenrollment of students in school districts, which could potentially cause the closure of some schools.

As the United States, California and High Desert continue to navigate the uncertainty of the proper dissemination of correct information and communication, it's evident that the conversation is long from over about children and vaccinations regarding COVID-19. Especially since The White House announced Wednesday new plans for the “potential authorization” of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11, saying they have enough vaccinations ready and waiting for the federal approval.

To be continued.