School Bars Unvaxxinated Students From In-Person Graduation
Los Angeles Daily News reported:
Having attended Granada Hills Charter High School for four years, after months of remote learning due to COVID-19 school closures, Andrew Luna was finally looking forward to a more normal senior year to close out high school…
Granada Hills Charter High bars unvaccinated students from in-person graduation
School leaders say the rule protects the community, and affected families feel let down
Having attended Granada Hills Charter High School for four years, after months of remote learning due to COVID-19 school closures, Andrew Luna was finally looking forward to a more normal senior year to close out high school.
But last fall the school informed families that beginning in the second semester, students 12 and older, with few exceptions, would not be allowed on campus if they didn’t get vaccinated against the coronavirus. For Luna and other unvaccinated students, that meant transferring to the school’s online independent study program.
Now, in the final days of school, it means not being allowed at the culmination ceremony for eighth graders, or for seniors like Luna the in-person June 2 graduation, Senior Awards Night and other year-end events.
“I feel like I’ve earned these events, like Grad Night, prom,” said 18-year-old Luna, who recently launched a podcast in which he interviews students in the same boat. “I did all four years at this school. For them to take (these events) from me at my final moment, of course it’s upsetting.”
Granada Hills Charter, in the San Fernando Valley, announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates for students and staff last fall after the Los Angeles Unified School District announced similar mandates. But the LAUSD school board has since delayed its student vaccine mandate twice – first from January to this coming fall semester, then again to no sooner than July 2023.
With LAUSD delaying its vaccine mandate in the state’s largest K-12 system, critics ask why Granada Hills — an independent charter school with its own governing board separate from LAUSD’s –– is standing firm on enforcing its mandate. They say the school is also requiring all guests who attend the culmination or graduation ceremonies to provide proof of vaccination.
In a statement, the school said its vaccination policy is “in the best interests of our students, all of whom attend voluntarily as GHC is a school of choice.”
“Our community asked for and has overwhelmingly supported our student vaccine policy, as demonstrated by our 99% vaccination rate amongst those who are eligible to be vaccinated,” the school said.
“Our Board stands by the science that indicates that vaccination is the most effective and best tool available to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safest learning environment possible. … Our commitment to safety is ever more important as COVID-19 cases are spiking again, and the prospect of outbreaks and new variants is significant.”
The school noted that LAUSD, which serves hundreds of thousands of students across Los Angeles, has logistical and practical considerations and challenges that are far different from those at Granada Hills Charter.
“That LAUSD has made its own decision to delay the implementation of its COVID-19 vaccine policy based on its logistical realities does not mean that delay is the prudent course for GHC,” the school statement said.
A spokesperson for the school, Jordan Duke, responded to an issue raised by critics that some unvaccinated special education students, who were allowed to remain on campus all year, are barred from taking part in the year-end activities, including walking in the graduation ceremony.
Special education students who wanted to participate in school events or extracurricular activities “had/have the choice to vaccinate or apply for, and receive, a medical exemption from the School,” Duke wrote.
More than 6,000 people are expected to attend Granada Hills’ high school graduation ceremony, including about 1,100 graduating seniors, school officials say. The 70 graduating seniors who aren’t attending school onsite can participate remotely and hear their names called.
But that’s of little comfort to Alex Belokopytov, who said he’ll be graduating with a 4.0-plus grade point average yet can’t attend Senior Awards Night, the in-person graduation ceremony or Grad Night at Disneyland to celebrate with classmates.
“I’m missing out on activities that I should have been participating in,” said the 18-year-old, who, like Luna, has been attending Granada Hills since ninth grade. “Do I want to have fun with my friends? I do. I really do.”
An ongoing lawsuit against Granada Hills Charter over its student vaccine mandate won’t be resolved before the year-end events for this year’s graduating seniors. Prom has already passed. Senior Awards Night will be Tuesday, and graduation is June 2.
For Tom Luna, the father of Andrew Luna, this will be the second time he and his wife will miss the opportunity to cheer on one of their children at a high school graduation ceremony. Their oldest son graduated from the school in 2020, when the ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic.
They were hoping to see their second child walk across the stage this year.
The father of five said he and his wife moved to Granada Hills specifically so their children could attend the charter school.