Ted Jackson / AP
NEW ORLEANS — As school systems across the US struggle to keep classrooms open amid the pandemic, New Orleans is set to become the first major district in the nation to mandate mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 and older. Although state rules will allow parents to opt out. Simplicity
Ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, several schools in the city are organizing vaccination programmes, including a KIPP Believe School.
One by one, dozens of kids presented their signed permission slips, pushed up the sleeves of their pale yellow school uniform shirts and—often won, but rarely with tears—getted a shot. Then they got candy.
Some said they had loved ones who had contracted the coronavirus and wanted to do what they could to protect their families. Others said their parents made the decision. Eight-year-old Nayla Carey spoke to her mother.
“She said the COVID shot was to protect you. And so now I want to be brave,” the third grader said before going back to class.
School superintendent Henderson Lewis said the district had announced about 46,000 students in December would be kicked out of school on Tuesday.
He said it is easier for those opposed to vaccination to get exemptions under state rules, and that schools will work with students who have not been vaccinated. But eventually everyone will have to be vaccinated or exempted.
New Orleans is a Democratic enclave in a red state, and the city and district are on the outskirts to the south, where many parents and elected officials have clamped down on measures to control the coronavirus.
In fact, guidelines from the Louisiana Department of Health state that parents may only be exempt from any vaccinations citing medical, religious, or philosophical objections.
Tulane University epidemiologist Susan Hassig said that even with the option of exemptions, Mandate is a good way to get students vaccinated. She said that parents who were a little unsure or not getting around to it would have a stronger motivation to get shots of their kids.
The New Orleans public school system consists entirely of charter schools, which are taxpayer-supported but operated independently. It has a masked mandate, and thousands of students are tested weekly. Public discord has been rarely seen in other districts, where parents have reprimanded the school board.
Henderson said the mandate was a bottom-up decision, with charter school operators across the district submitting letters of support, as opposed to district officials implementing the policy on their own.
According to Henderson, about one-quarter of the district’s schools were closed for in-person learning in mid-January after the Omicron wave affected staff members and students.
Christine Pitts of the Center on Reinventing Public Education suggested that charter schools’ habit of operating independently may have played a role in their support for the vaccine requirement.
The measure is also in line with other steps largely taken by the city to curb the virus, including the recently reinstated mask mandate and the need for all people 5 and older to enter certain places such as restaurants. Includes vaccination requirements.
Some other school districts across the country have taken similar measures. Students in Washington, DC will need to be vaccinated by March 1. The Los Angeles school system delayed a requirement that students 12 and up be vaccinated after it became clear that thousands of non-vaccinated students who did not meet the requirement would have to be vaccinated. study online.
But many states have gone the other direction, in some cases banning the vaccine from being mandatory in schools.
According to city statistics, about 55% of all 5- to 17-year-olds in New Orleans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The number is around 26% across the state. This compares with 66% of 12- to 17-year-olds and 30% of 5- to 11-year-olds nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tulane’s Cowen Institute, which studies education issues, surveyed New Orleans parents in October and found that a vaccine mandate for students was opposed by 48% and 44% supported. Black parents and lower-income parents protested more strongly.
According to census data, about 60% of the city is black and 24% of the city is in poverty.
But the report’s author, Vincent Rosmeier, said that in a rapidly changing pandemic, a few months could make a big difference. Since the vote, vaccines have become available for children ages 5 to 11, and the Omicron version has caused widespread school disruption.
Outside the Bricolage Academy, Renee Price waited to pick up her 10-year-old son. She was vaccinated about a month ago, and she was happy. She doesn’t want her to miss another school or have to attend Zoom classes again.
“They get vaccines for other things to go to school. So I don’t think there’s that much of a difference,” she said.
At Warren Easton High School, Liquithe McNeil set out to legislate for her 16-year-old to be vaccinated, but she didn’t have to do so after talking about how it would be easier for a girl to go back to school and see Will be done. her friends. McNeil said he had no problem with the mandate.
“We will never be able to get back to normal if we don’t do what we need to do,” she said.
But some parents are more concerned. Michelle Palmer, who waited in a long line of cars at Lake Forest Charter to pick up her 8- and 10-year-olds, said she was a bit hesitant about the vaccine and that she had vaccinated herself or her children. Haven’t got it done. He applied and got a waiver.
“It’s up to the parents whether they want to get their kids vaccinated or not,” she said.