SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Only weeks away from the return to in-person learning, San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) is adding layers to its safety plan.
Announced on Tuesday, the district is requiring its teachers and staff be vaccinated or be tested twice a week for COVID-19.
"We're trying to make sure that we have as many layers in place as possible to insure that our students and staff are as safe as we can possibly make them," Jennifer Maddox, Public Information Officer for SJUSD told ABC7 News.
Maddox said another layer includes masking both indoors and outdoors. The CDC and state health department issued new recommendations to keep all K through 12th grade students masking indoors.
SJUSD teacher, Kelly Walker told ABC7 News, "Everybody wearing masks is a very small price to pay to get everybody back on campus."
"As a high school teacher, I know that a lot of my students have already been vaccinated as well," she added.
Walker threw her support behind the new "vaccinate or test" policy. Though she admitted the district's testing requirements seem tedious.
"It sounds like San Jose Unified's way of saying, 'Without requiring you to get vaccinated, you better be vaccinated,'" she explained. "The testing requirements for folks that are not vaccinated are pretty, pretty tight. They have to get tested twice a week and there's only like three locations right now in the whole district where they can go. And it has to be through San Jose Unified."
Maddox told ABC7 News, up until this point, the district has done surveillance testing on all employees, regardless of vaccine status.
She said every employee has had to test at least once a month, and was given the opportunity to test twice monthly. Once again, the mandates would push that requirement to twice a week.
"We're gonna see more people find that as a last nudge to hopefully get vaccinated," Maddox shared.
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She said more than 90-percent of the district's staff and teachers are already fully vaccinated. This leaves about 300 people who are either not, or have yet to provide proof.
The push to strengthen safety across the board also surrounds some of the youngest, elementary-age students within the district.
"No one in that population, as far as the students are concerned, have had the opportunity to get vaccinated," Maddox continued.
She said she wouldn't be surprised to see these changes implemented elsewhere.
"As state and local agencies start to make decisions, districts tend to follow," Maddox said. "And it seems like that's the direction that things are going."
"We anticipate there may be more changes between now and the first day of school," she added.
She confirmed August 18th is the first day of school for SJUSD students. The district is still offering an independent studies option to families who feel their students might have a health risk.
Maddox said the district has received interest from about 100 students, which is a small portion of their overall population. Otherwise, students will be returning in person.
"It seems very clear the state is asking school districts to balance, 'We need the kids in-person, at school, but we also need to keep COVID out of the schools,'" Maddox told ABC7 News. "So, I think finding that delicate balance is what we're striving for. I'm sure we'll learn things along the way and make modifications appropriately."
Maddox said the district will also be offering testing for students.
"We're not going to do surveillance testing, but if a student either has symptoms or if they've been in close contact with someone- we will offer testing at no charge to the family through San Jose Unified," she said.
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