The State Center Community College District decided Friday to delay until Nov. 15 a requirement that students show proof of a coronavirus vaccination to attend classes in person.
The Board of Trustees voted 5-1-1 in a special board meeting to push the deadline back from Oct. 15 so that students would be closer to the end of their semester coursework before the vaccination mandate would be in effect.
The resolution approved by the board would add an alternative of twice-weekly testing for students and staff who, for health or sincere religious reasons, cannot be vaccinated.
Board president Annalisa Perea and Trustees Magdalena Gomez, Deborah Ikeda, Nasreen Johnson, and Danielle Parra voted for the deadline revision, Trustee Bobby Kahn voted against it, and Trustee Richard Caglia abstained.
The vote came after hours of comment from the public urging the board to lift the vaccination requirement and to instead authorize the testing alternative for all students and staff, which was the recommendation of interim Chancellor Douglas Houston.
The resolution did not define how frequently the testing would need to occur.
The district’s four community college presidents had advocated for keeping the mandate but moving the deadline.
Dr. John Zweifler, a Fresno County Public Health physician, said that with the county still having high numbers of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, shifting to the testing alternative would not accomplish the goal of ending the coronavirus more quickly in the region.
“It’s important to keep in mind that testing does not stop the virus from circulating,” he said.
The board had set the Oct. 15 deadline at an Aug. 23 special meeting, and that deadline remains for campus staff, contractors, and visitors.
The vaccination resolution requires student-athletes, coaches, and referees to adhere to California Community College Athletic Association’s COVID-19 mitigation protocols, requires spectators at on-campus athletics, academic, or arts events to be either vaccinated or have a negative COVID test no more than 72 hours before the event, and allows people with face coverings to enter district facilities and remain inside up to 15 minutes, regardless of vaccination status.
Low Positivity Rates on Campus
The changes are being proposed for several reasons, interim Chancellor Douglas Houston told GV Wire by email Thursday.
“We have identified some unintended consequences for students and we are proposing the Board consider modest revisions to the vaccine policy to reduce those impacts,” Houston said. “These revisions are consistent with the vaccine policies of some other agencies in the region and would still ensure that SCCCD provide above-standard safety for students and employees.
“Moreover, even the measures in place prior to the vaccine policy, SCCCD continues to see COVID positivity rates well below those of the general population in the region — below and never exceeding 1% among employees and well below 0.5% for on-campus students as opposed to over 8% among the general population.”