Raul Rodriguez (left), interim superintendent/president, listens as Hartnell Governing Board President Erica Padilla-Chavez discusses the vaccine requirements during the board’s Sept 21 meeting on Hartnell’s Main Campus in Salinas. (Contributed)

SALINAS — Hartnell Community College District Governing Board voted Sept. 21 to require that employees and students be vaccinated for Covid-19, with work still ahead for district administrators and employee bargaining units to determine how and when those mandates are implemented.

Board members voiced a shared conviction that currently enrolled students must be able to complete their Fall 2021 classes, ending Dec. 18, regardless of their current vaccination status. They also supported a desire, voiced by Board President Erica Padilla-Chavez, to align the student and employee requirements and establish a clear date for the employee requirement to take effect, preferably by Dec. 1.

“I understand that we’ve got to do this, but I also want to make sure we’re designing the requirement for the entire college community,” Padilla-Chavez said. “The point of vaccination is public health, and that means getting the entire community vaccinated.”

The outcomes on the two separate board policies were the same, with Trustee Candi DePauw voting against both the student and employee requirements, and Trustee Ray Montemayor abstaining. Voting yes on both were Padilla-Chavez and Trustees Margaret D’Arrigo, Alejandra Gonzalez and Irma Lopez. Trustee Aurelio Salazar Jr. was absent. Student Trustee Jane Hernandez, whose vote is non-binding, abstained on both measures.

In presenting the proposed policy amendments to the board, district Interim Vice President for Human Resources Linda Beam emphasized how frequently the public health threat from Covid-19 has shifted, including the advent of the more contagious Delta variant in recent months.

“We’re really just trying to keep our employees, our students and our community safe with this request,” Beam said.

The board policies that were adopted are amendments to existing communicable disease requirements: BP 5210 for students and BP 7230 for employees. By state law and under contract terms, the district must negotiate such specifics with bargaining units that represent Hartnell faculty, administrative staff and custodians.

More than 40 of California’s 73 community college districts have already adopted some sort of vaccination requirement. In the Central Coast region, Cabrillo College is now requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination for all students taking in-person classes or otherwise coming onto campus, and Gavilan College has approved student and employee requirements, with phased implementation. To date, Monterey Peninsula College has not approved any mandates. Both the California State University and University of California systems are requiring vaccination for students and employees.

Although work on an administrative procedure for the Hartnell student vaccine requirement is not complete, discussions have centered on making students ability to register for the Spring 2022 semester contingent on at least a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Spring registration starts Nov. 1 and runs through the start of classes on Jan. 24. On Aug. 16, the board approved a vaccine requirement for all Hartnell student-athletes, allowing medical and religious exemptions with testing.

Raul Rodriguez, interim superintendent/president, has recommended that the vaccine requirements apply to students and employees regardless of whether they are teaching or taking classes in person or online or how frequently they are coming onto Hartnell campuses. This includes students at high schools in the Hartnell district who are taking dual-enrollment classes at their respective schools. 

Rodriguez has stated that both students and employees, regardless of their status, may need or want to visit Hartnell campuses for a variety of reasons. The vaccination requirement will not apply to visitors, including prospective students, but they may be subject to screening for Covid-19.

Rodriguez said administrative committees will develop specific written procedures for the employee and student requirements, in concert with discussions with employee bargaining units. He said he will bring the proposed procedures back to the Governing Board at a future meeting to seek their input and support.

Hartnell continues to require physical distancing and use of face coverings indoors on all its campuses, including the Alisal Campus in east Salinas, the new Soledad Education Center and the newly expanded King City Education Center. Covid-19 testing is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week on Hartnell’s Main Campus.

Since June, employees have been required to complete an online self-screening questionnaire before coming onto campus, and students are strongly encouraged to use the online screening app, called Titan HST. In addition, buildings are regularly sanitized, and clear shielding has been installed in public reception areas, such as the Office of Admissions and Records.

Article submitted by Scott Faust, Communications Director for Hartnell College.

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