Fewer than 24 hours after The Daily Signal reported that the District of Columbia would not offer remote learning and planned to bar unvaccinated students, many of whom are black, from attending school in person 20 days after school started on Monday, the city abruptly announced it was delaying the policy until next year. 

DCist reported that Washington, D.C., Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn announced that enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate would not begin until Jan. 3, 2023. 

Students 12 and up who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 will receive a notice of noncompliance on Nov. 21. If they do not comply by Jan. 3, 2023, they will no longer be able to attend school in person.  

Citing “the challenges of tracking enforcement for COVID-19 vaccinations,” in a Friday letter to city education officials, Kihn wrote:

We have heard from many of you about the challenges of tracking enforcement for COVID-19 vaccinations … We hope that the Jan. 3, 2023 date for first exclusions of non-compliant students will give schools and [local education agencies] additional time to prepare and for students to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

On Thursday, The Daily Signal questioned D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, on what unvaccinated students could expect when public school started on Monday. 

“They can go to school on Monday,” Bowser said, “But they need to get their vaccinations … and their families will be alerted as to the dates.” 

The Daily Signal then asked whether unvaccinated children would have the option to learn virtually if they didn’t get vaccinated. As of Thursday, students were told they had 20 days from the start of school to show proof of vaccination. 

Bowser replied, “We’re not offering remote learning for children, and families will need to comply with what is necessary to come to school.”   

The Daily Signal’s article was shared widely on Twitter, including by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

The D.C. government’s vaccine numbers website shows 47% of the black children in the District ages 12-15 had not completed their primary vaccination series necessary to go back to school in person.    

Among black teens aged 16-17, 42% are unvaccinated.   

The announcement comes on the heels of D.C. Superior Court Judge Maurice A. Ross’ decision Thursday that the city’s vaccination mandate for city employees was unlawful.

Just Washington, D.C., and New Orleans currently require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to attend school in person, according to The Washington Post.  

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