A K–8 school district in Southern California is planning to open a new program for unvaccinated students, if Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate takes effect and prevents them from receiving in-person learning.
In a Nov. 23 message sent to the families of Alpine Union School District (AUSD), Superintendent Rich Newman said he and the district believe it is their “moral responsibility” to provide in-person instruction for all students, including those whose parents reject vaccination.
“We realized that there are students in our community whose parents will choose not to have their children vaccinated,” Newman said. “In fact, I have been meeting with many of these parents to hear their thoughts and develop plans to ensure their students are also provided the same opportunity to learn in person if the mandate requiring students to be vaccinated goes into effect.”
According to Newman, the district has created a program called “Alpine Choice Academy” (ACA) to address the potential impact of the proposed mandate, which would require students at all public, public charter, and private schools to receive COVID-19 vaccines following full federal approval of the shots for their grade span.
“This unique program is the first of its kind designed to provide in-person leaning to students who would not be able to attend school on campus if not vaccinated,” Newman said, adding that the district will continue to field input from parents and release more details about ACA in the near future.
The AUSD is located in the Cuyamaca Mountains of San Diego County and serves a community of about 15,000 residents. Its five schools enroll approximately 1,750 students in grades K–8, according to the district’s website.
California became the first state in the nation to announce COVID-19 vaccine requirements for K–12 schools in October, when the pediatric vaccines were still pending a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The mandate would not apply until the vaccines receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella,” Newsom said when he announced the mandate. “There’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19.”
“Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates,” said the Democratic governor, who survived a recall effort fueled by public disapproval of his pandemic response. “We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The move has since prompted many parents in the Golden State to quit traditional schooling altogether. Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a Virginia-based not-for-profit organization focused on providing legal advice for homeschooling families, told The Epoch Times in October that it was seeing a spike in California parents looking for homeschooling support.
“We are seeing an increase in our membership numbers in California. Much of that increase is due to Governor Newsom’s vaccine mandate,” HSLDA President J. Michael Smith said in a statement. “We are receiving comments daily from parents who would not have otherwise chosen to pull their students out of the public school, stating their reasons for doing so is simply due to [the mandate].”