With the spring semester starting this week at West Valley and Mission community colleges, members of the district’s teacher’s union say they’re concerned district officials aren’t verifying students’ COVID-19 vaccination records.
The West Valley-Mission Community College District, which has colleges in Saratoga and Santa Clara, requires all students taking in-person classes to be vaccinated. Only students with a district-approved medical or religious exemption can opt for twice-a-week testing instead.
To register for in-person classes, students had to provide the district with a photo of the front of their COVID-19 vaccination card or a screenshot of their digital vaccination card.
But according to members of the West Valley-Mission Federation of Teachers, the district’s teacher union, the district isn’t verifying the authenticity of vaccination records, giving students and faculty a “false sense of security,” President Kate Disney told this news organization.
“They put this policy in place, we applaud it, now let’s implement it and let’s verify those vaccination records and we can come back and be safe,” Disney said.
District officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but the district’s COVID-19 vaccination policy defines vaccination certification as “submission of information establishing that a student or employee has received an approved vaccine or qualifies for an exemption from the vaccine requirement.”
Disney said the district purchased software to conduct an audit of vaccine cards to determine vaccination compliance, but in the days leading up to the start of the semester, the union was told the district had not started the audit. They were also unable to find out how many vaccine cards the district planned to audit.
Cheryl Hackworth, a biology professor at West Valley College, said the lack of verification has alarmed both faculty and students.
“That shocked a lot of students, of course, knowing they had come to campus thinking they had been seated in closed classrooms working very closely with other students that were potentially not vaccinated at all,” she said.
In light of the district not verifying vaccine records, the union last month passed a resolution condemning the administration for “failing its students during the pandemic.”
It argues that the district is operating with outdated COVID-19 guidelines — in conflict with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s recommendations — by not mandating boosters, updating isolation protocols and implementing new masking requirements. Stanford and the California State University and University of California systems mandate booster shots for students.
“I recognize that that might preclude some students from attending some courses,” Hackworth said. “I do think that that would be a drawback, but considering that we already have the vaccine mandate, mandating the booster shot I think would be important.”