BUSD Must Require Vaccines for Athletics and Extracurriculars

As COVID-19 cases surge, new questions arise from Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) families and teachers surrounding safety. The district seems to be doing the best it can to keep our schools safe. But the question must be asked, is it doing enough?

Although many students and staff are already vaccinated, some have yet to receive their first or second dose. Despite this, vaccinations still are not required for any students, particularly those who participate in athletics or other extracurriculars. While we navigate reopening during the pandemic, it’s more essential than ever that our students are fully vaccinated. 

Like any other high school, Berkeley High School (BHS) travels to many different locations for sporting events. According to the West Alameda County Conference website, BHS athletics participated in eight away games on Thursday, September 2 alone. This interaction with such a variety of school districts with varying protective measures against COVID-19 in place presents an obvious concern in terms of preventing the spread of the disease. 

On Wednesday, August 11, California became the first state to require vaccinations for all educators, closely followed by Oregon and Washington. While these mandates are a step in the right direction, California should also require vaccinations for all student athletes if it truly wants to limit transmission of COVID-19 in schools. 

As has been for quite some time, the focus of last Wednesday’s BUSD School Board meeting was on the transition to in-person school. “We scheduled this discussion tonight about the plausibility of mandatory vaccines for student athletes and students participating in extracurricular activities,” said Superintendent Brent Stephens. “We have been behind the scenes collecting legality for such a move.” 

At the time of the meeting, the board had not yet reached a definitive answer on whether or not they would be able to require vaccinations, but they are pursuing the possibility. With so many longing for a return to normalcy, this should be one of the district’s top concerns. 

Even if it is currently only for a portion of students, a decision to implement a vaccine mandate would be an important step towards ensuring the safety of students and their families. In this time more than ever, BHS should be putting students’ and staff’s safety before everything and anything else.

Correction: A print version of this article stated that there may only be one public high school in the US with a student COVID-19 vaccine mandate (within Culver City Unified School District). Since then, Los Angeles Unified School District has also approved a student vaccine mandate.