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CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Sweetwater Union High School District approved a vaccine mandate for all eligible students and staff in a 5-0 vote at its Monday night meeting.

The school board’s vaccine mandate would require the COVID-19 vaccine for all staff as a condition of employment and for all students ages 16 and up in order to continue learning on campus. 

A deadline is still in the works but will come before March 15, 2022. The district will allow for medical and religious exemptions for both students and staff. Families will be asked to express their intent to vaccinate or participate in virtual instruction by mid-February. 

Dozens of parents came to speak out on the topic, but the meeting was derailed before it could even get started. 

The meeting was supposed to begin at 6 p.m. and be open to the public for in person comment, however a man refusing to wear a mask caused the board to clear the room and move the meeting to its district YouTube channel. 

“I just want to have a choice and I want it to be a medical decision between my child’s pediatrician and family. I don’t want it to be a forced to mandate by the district,” said Kimberly Dickson, a parent within the Sweetwater Union High School district. 

The mandate has the option to extend to students ages 12-15 if the vaccine for that age group gets full FDA approval.  The school board said the biggest driving force for considering a mandate would be to keep as many kids learning in-person on campus. 

Students and staff wanting to continue participating in extracurricular activities will be required to be fully vaccinated or receive an approved exemption prior to February 5, when the spring CIF sports season begins. 

The “Let Them Choose advocacy group has sent a legal demand letter to Sweetwater Union High school district urging them not to pass a mandate, saying school districts don’t have the legal authority to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students.