SMCCCD adopts new vaccination mandate for students and employees

The policy will effect those who take classes or work at district facilities


Christian Emmer/CC

Since the Pfizer vaccine received full approval on August 23, the district’s mandate is now fully active.

Skyline College’s continuous fight against COVID-19 is set to take on a twist.

The San Mateo County Community College District has adopted a requirement that students and employees must be vaccinated against the virus in order to receive access to campus and district facilities.

The new policy was issued by the Board of Trustees during their meeting on July 28 and was scheduled to be placed into effect either on the first day of the fall semester on August 18 or when the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Since the Pfizer vaccine received full approval on August 23, the district’s mandate is now fully active.

“Ideally, the mandate would facilitate and encourage people to get their COVID-19 vaccine in order to protect themselves and others,” said Skyline’s registered nurse Emily Risk. “In doing so, the district is demonstrating dedication to getting people back on campus and to keeping them safe.”

Board policy No. 2.90 states that all District employees who access Skyline College, College of San Mateo, and Cañada College must be fully vaccinated unless an individual is exempted due to medical or religious reasons. Those that work in the District office, facilities, and do off-site in-person work are also part of the requirement.

Any student attending in-person classes, programs, or participating in any activity on campuses is required to be vaccinated. The policy won’t be in play for those enrolled in online courses because of their non-requirement to be physically present on campuses.

Visitors –– individuals not considered employees or students –– must comply with Cal/OSHA safety guidelines to step foot on District ground.

“No shirt, no shoes, no vaccine, no service,” said San Mateo Board of Supervisors President David Canepa. “The trustees did an incredible job protecting the students and the faculty. I’d like to see San Mateo County move in that direction; people get passionate about this issue on both sides.”

The move comes after the recent surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the new delta variant, which is two times more contagious than any of the previous variants. As more information is received and more research is conducted, the vaccine’s reaction to the strain is still widely unknown.

The policy also corresponds with the recommendations from the San Mateo County Health Department. On July 16, the county reported rising cases and sent out a release to urge everyone –– regardless of vaccination status –– to wear a mask indoors in public settings.

“As of now, it makes sense to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status because the delta variant is primarily causing the positive infections at the moment, and we just don’t know enough about it to take the masks off,” Risk said. “We all need to remain flexible and educated as we are gaining new insights daily and making new recommendations based on the best and latest science available.”

As of now, social distancing or barrier requirements are no longer required regardless of vaccination status.

SMCCCD Chancellor Michael Claire will be responsible for establishing administrative procedures to implement the new policy.

“In most cases when you break it down and address the concerns, it becomes obvious that protecting yourself and your community outweighs the reasons not to get vaccinated,” Risk said. The science is solid, the vaccines work as they were designed to, and they are saving lives.”

In an effort to help personnel and the student body receive their shots, SMCCCD will be conducting pop-up vaccine clinics at each campus. Cañada will have one on August 31, Skyline on September 2, and College of San Mateo on September 3. The time frames are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for all three days.

“I think the leadership being put forth by the community college district is needed in light of the delta variant and they should be commended for their forward thinking,” Canepa said.