Board unanimously approves extracurricular testing policy and hears student perspectives at recent meeting

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The Student COVID-19 Vaccination or Testing Requirement for Participation in Extracurricular Activities will cover events with large numbers of participants, like school dances, but spectators at extracurriculars will not have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Elise Spenner, Copy Editor

Testing Policy:

After months of deliberation, the San Mateo Union High School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved a COVID-19 testing policy for extracurricular activities on Thursday night.

The policy, which requires unvaccinated participants in all after-school extracurricular activities to show proof of a weekly negative COVID-19 test result, will go into effect on Nov. 15. 

“I’m going to support this tonight because I think we need to move forward,” said Trustee Peter Hanley, who supports a district-wide vaccine mandate. “I think we need to go farther than this, but this is a good first step to get us moving in the right direction.”

At previous meetings, Trustee Linda Lees Dwyer expressed concern about the vaccination or testing status of spectators at extracurriculars. On Thursday, she was again hesitant to support the policy. 

She pressed the district health services manager Sara Devaney on expanding testing opportunities. Currently, each school offers just one day of free testing each week. At Burlingame, tests are available on Tuesdays between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the cafeteria.

“One opportunity a week, I don’t think is sufficient for students. I think if a kid misses it and that is the only place they can get it, I think that’s not right,” Dwyer said. “I want no one to be rejected from an extracurricular event because they didn’t get a test. How can we do that?”

According to Devaney, while tests are only available once a week, students can stop by before school or during any passing period, and the testing stations are rarely busy. Additionally, athletic trainers or health aides can administer tests to students that miss the designated window, and the district will accept negative test results from community venues or private physicians.

While Dwyer asked for a report on the availability of testing, she gave a “hesitant yes” on the proposal. The four other board members — Trustee Hanley, along with Trustees Robert Griffin, Ligia Andrade Zúñiga and Greg Land — supported the policy as well. 

Student Study Session:

Prior to the regularly scheduled Board meeting, the trustees set time aside for students from the district to address both accomplishments and areas for improvements at their schools. 

Associated Student Body President Elisenne Yun and Senior Class President Zoe Steinberger each spoke to growing participation in clubs and leadership activities that help students reach outside of their traditional cliques and academic circles. 

In terms of shortcomings, Steinberger looked for stricter enforcement of mask mandates, and Yun encouraged further engagement with the Student Equity Group on campus. 

Both Steinberger and Yun also asked for more support during the college application season. Yun advocated for easier accessibility to counselors, and Steinberger said she hopes that teachers would be more compassionate with students’ workload. 

Steinberger ended by asking the Board for further opportunities to engage with the trustees and share student perspectives. 

“Our board needs to be connected to students and show our campuses that they are willing to listen,” Steinberger said. “I think I’m one of the only students at BHS that can actually name all the members on the Board, and that needs to change.”