Administration announces vaccine mandate for students 16 and up

By Juliet Wiener, Outside News Editor

As of Nov. 30, all Shalhevet students 16 and up will have to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to attend in-person school, according to an email sent out to the Shalhevet community this afternoon. 

Unvaccinated students will be able to attend only on Zoom, said the email, which was signed by Head of School Rabbi David Block and Board President Dr. Noam Drazin. It was sent out to parents, faculty and staff at 12:29 p.m. 

The new policy gives unvaccinated students a six-week window to become fully vaccinated. Students not yet 16 will be given six weeks from their 16th birthdays.

As of now, only students 16 and up are required to vaccinate because this age group was given full FDA approval for the Covid-19 vaccine. The email said that once the vaccine receives full approval for the 12-15 age group, their vaccine requirements will be revisited. 

The text of the full email appears below:

Dear Shalhevet Community,

For the last many months, our team – both administrative and medical – has been doing everything we can to optimize both the health and learning experiences of our students and community. The factors that we consider are many and complex (perhaps more so than many appreciate), but those twin goals are always our guiding light.

Unfortunately, the virus continues to make its way through our community and threatens to disrupt learning and impede programming for our students (as we’ve already experienced). While there have been breakthrough infections (I speak from personal experience), the science shows clearly that the chance of infection is still far lower in vaccinated individuals, and that when there is a breakthrough, the vaccine is doing a remarkable job of preventing serious illness.

As such, per the recommendation of our Medical Task Force, those who are 16 years of age and older (in other words, the age group for whom the FDA has granted the vaccine full approval) will soon be required to be vaccinated to continue attending school in-person. Those younger than 16 will not experience any changes to our existing policies (including required weekly PCR testing of unvaccinated students). We’ll obviously revisit these parameters once other age groups are included in the full FDA approval.

A quick note: Per Governor Newsom’s recent announcement, a state mandate for all California students (both public and private) will be in effect the semester after full FDA approval is granted for Pfizer’s 12-15 year old vaccine dose.  As such, the state mandate will be in effect as early as January but could potentially be pushed off until this August.

While we stand firmly with this decision, we also know how sensitive a topic this is for so many. Our goal is to create the best learning environment for all of our students, not to be exclusionary. As always, our medical task force is available and ready to have honest, considerate conversations with each and every family.

If a parent believes that his/her child is entitled to a qualifying exemption (as per the CDC guidelines), please contact us at [email protected]. Those granted exemptions will be required to undertake weekly PCR testing as per our previously communicated policy.

Here are some details:

  • We are granting a 6-week window for those who are unvaccinated to be fully vaccinated. As a reminder, someone is considered fully vaccinated a full two weeks after their second dose.
  • As such, students need to be 2-weeks past their second doses by Tuesday, November 30th (when we return to school post-Thanksgiving), in order to return to school.
  • When a student turns 16, the 6-week window will begin on the 16th birthday.
  • For now, those who continue to remain unvaccinated beyond November 30th will have access to classes via Zoom.

A final note: I know well that no decision will make everyone happy (nor is it ever our guiding light). I must say, though, that as a school that deeply values diversity and multiplicity of perspectives, it pains me to see the divisiveness that COVID and its policies have created (really, throughout the community). My job is always – always – to make sure we are providing the very best education for our students, and I urge us to keep our eyes on the proverbial ball.

If your child’s vaccination status has changed since you first filled out the vaccine survey, please take a moment to fill it out here.

Thank you for your partnership in helping us both keep our community safe and provide a preeminent, focussed, uninterrupted educational experience for our students. As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to [email protected].


Dr. Noam Drazin, Board President

Rabbi David Block, Head of School