Sonoma County Office of Education

Dr. Herrington's message to parents/guardians and community about Gov. Newsom's vaccine mandate

10/15/2021 -

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community,

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s the importance of relationships; friends, family, neighbors, and our school community have come together like never before. We were reminded of the importance of our schools as a place of learning and support for our students and families. Our campuses wouldn't be open now without your support. The pandemic has made the work of running schools much more complicated. In many ways, we must now function as a health department — something schools have never been asked to do before — while also continuing our efforts to connect students with the resources they need for learning and growth.

We understand that families and students may have strong emotions and questions about COVID-19 safety measures, including vaccine and testing requirements. However, keeping children home from school to protest a COVID-19 vaccine requirement announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom, as posts on some social media outlets are suggesting, would only result in more lost learning time for our students. Our school funding will not be impacted by these absences. But our children will be. Showing up for school has a huge impact on a student’s academic success starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school.

Our districts have no control over the proposed mandate, which would treat the COVID-19 vaccine similarly to the 10 vaccines on the state list already required by California law for students attending K-12 schools. The local district would only set the semester in which it’s implemented. The mandate would not apply until COVID-19 vaccines are given full authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (approximately next year). Exemptions for both medical reasons and personal belief would be available, unless the state legislature votes to add this vaccination to the no exemption list for the 10 current vaccines.

From providing regular meals, safe spaces, emotional and mental health supports, trusted adults, and positive interaction with their peers, the importance of ensuring routines and consistency with school time can't be overstated. Our students have lost so much learning time starting in 2017 (three national disaster fires, a federal disaster flood, mass county power shutoffs, mass community evacuations, and school closures due to air quality) to today’s pandemic. People may disagree about the methods schools are required to follow, but I hope we can all agree that keeping our schools safe and open is what's best for our students.

Together, let's make sure your child has what they need to thrive and be successful in school this year.


Steven D. Herrington, Ph.D.

County Superintendent of Schools