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By Collin Breaux
COVID-19 vaccine centers could be coming at to-be-determined sites within the Capistrano Unified School District as the Board of Trustees on Wednesday, Sept. 15 approved plans to allow such sites.
The board voted, 5-2, on the measure, with Board President Judy Bullockus and Trustee Lisa Davis voting no. Trustees Krista Castellanos, Gila Jones, Pamela Braunstein, Amy Hanacek, and Martha McNicholas voted yes on the proposal.
The sites have not yet been set, and CUSD staff and the County of Orange will work to determine exact locations. The space would be donated to the County of Orange at no cost, an agenda report said. Any established site would be for voluntary vaccinations.
The vaccinations would be administered by state or county employees, and/or their vendors or service providers.
“The COVID-19 vaccines will occur on selected weekdays excluding County and national holidays and will take place after school hours,” an agenda report said.
Vaccinations are not mandatory for CUSD students or district staff, though the state is requiring all public school employees either be fully vaccinated or undergo regular tests to show they are not positive for COVID-19.
Trustees in favor of establishing vaccination sites said the measure is not so much for students, but more so for parents who do not have transportation to get to other vaccination sites—and who also may feel uncomfortable when being asked about insurance and citizenship status at other sites.
“Schools are trusted organizations. Everyone knows about schools. Parents are comfortable going to schools,” Jones said. “I think there are many parts of this district where there may not be much demand for vaccination sites at schools, but there are parts of the district where there are many families where maybe no one drives or maybe one person drives. To have a place that is (within) walking distance of homes is an advantage of families.”
Jones further said non-English speaking parents also tend to know someone at their school who speaks Spanish, which isn’t always available at a pharmacy or other vaccination sites.
Bullockus said she is “appalled” at the population that disregards breakthrough cases in vaccinated people, and called the push for vaccinations political. Children have been bullied for not being vaccinated, she said.
“It’s all on conservative social media, but there is example after example—and I have my own personal ones of friends I know,” Bullockus said. “These aren’t made up. I have to say, I know what I am getting as an adult not being vaccinated. I’m not vaccinated.”
Health experts have generally said vaccines are safe, people are less likely to contract COVID-19 after being vaccinated, and unvaccinated people are at higher risk for contracting the virus.
Numerous parents at the meeting spoke against the district allowing a vaccination site because of concerns about the safety of vaccines and individual freedom. The parents also again spoke against mask requirements for students.
In other news from the meeting, district staff presented a quarterly report on implementing aspects of CUSD’s Cultural Proficiency Plan, which the Board of Trustees approved in December. Measures under the plan include staff undergoing implicit bias training, ordering curriculum novels that represent diverse authors, opening College and Career Centers at schools, and facilitating an executive director position to oversee cultural proficiency, equity, access and social emotional learning.
Some parents have said the Cultural Proficiency Plan amounts to CUSD teaching critical race theory, a claim denied by Superintendent Kirsten Vital Brulte and district staff.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.