Teachers union raises concerns over San Diego Unified's COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Posted at 5:26 PM, Oct 06, 2021

San Diego (KGTV)- In addition to eligible students, 16 and older, all San Diego Unified School District staff will need to be vaccinated before the end of this year unless they have a cleared exemption. But, some educators say they need more information as the deadline is quickly approaching.

“People are feeling very stressed right now, and this is just adding to that stress,” said Kisha Borden, president of the San Diego Education Association. The union represents about 6,500 educators districtwide.

The district’s board voted unanimously to put a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place just days before Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide mandate for all schools, set to take effect sometime next year. It's an effort to keep schools open and students in classrooms, while reducing the spread the coronavirus.

“We don’t know how many teachers we will lose. We don’t even know what the district’s plan is for those that don’t adhere to the policy,” said Borden.

According to the district, about 76-percent of employees are currently fully vaccinated.

By Dec. 20, they expect all employees, partners, and contractors to have their second vaccine dose or already be fully vaccinated.

The district said this was a condition of employment; however, Borden said they have not yet elaborated beyond that.

“What’s the consequence if someone doesn’t meet that deadline, are they terminated, are they put on leave? We don’t know we haven’t received any further information from the district,” said Borden.

She said another big concern is if many teachers are let go and quit over the mandate, what will happen to their students?

“Those teachers who are vaccinated are wondering what does that mean for those of us who may be left behind if people are released? Where are those students going? Who’s going to cover those classes?” she said.

Borden said a recent survey of union members revealed that the majority of respondents did support the mandate, but there are some who said they refuse to get vaccinated.

She’s now hoping the district will shed some light as the deadline to get the first dose is next month.

“Any information they can share, especially around the process around exemptions,” she said. “Our members who are not yet vaccinated really want to know, what do I do now?”

She worries the recent mandates could create more staffing shortages at the district and even cause some teachers to leave the profession altogether.

“There’s been a teacher shortage for at least five years,” she said. “We have seen a decline in students getting teaching credentials, and so this just sort of exacerbates that. I don’t know if the district has a plan for what happens after December 20th,” she said.

ABC 10News reached out to a spokesperson for San Diego Unified to try to get some of these questions answered; they said now that the board had approved the mandate, the district is working on an implementation plan that will include conversations with unions. The spokesperson said the district also sent a letter to all unions the day after the board approved the vaccine requirement, letting them know who to contact to answer questions and meet.