Community Day School has announced that all age-able students will need a COVID-19 vaccine to attend Squirrel Hill Jewish day school.
Headmaster Avi Baran Munro said in an email to CDS parents last week that the decision was made “after consultation with our medical advisors and with the unanimous support of the Community Day School Board of Trustees”.
CDS has students in Pre-K through eighth grade. Currently, only children 12 years and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, but Munro said CDS is expecting emergency FDA approval of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine “for children ages five to 11” in the coming weeks. Once the Food and Drug Administration approves the emergency, CDS will give students eight weeks to receive both Pfizer shots.
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“Not only do we care about the academic and developmental needs of students, but we are also committed to protecting the physical health of our community,” Munro told parents in the October 21 email. “We remain particularly inspired by Pikuach Nefesh (” Protecting Life “), a fundamental principle of Jewish law that is dedicated to protecting your families and our employees.”
Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh officials said last week they are not joining CDS to oblige the COVID-19 vaccine for high school students.
“In my opinion, it is premature at this point to issue them until the CDC instructs them,” Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum, director of the yeshiva schools, told the Chronicle. “We respect each other and we respect their differences. … We’ll look at and look at the recommendations of the CDC. And we will adapt accordingly. “
Hillel Academy officials were unavailable at press time to clarify the vaccination schedule for Squirrel Hill School students.
CDS parent Michael Sampson was enthusiastic about the school’s vaccination mandate last week. “It is a wonderful and well-designed and much-needed plan to keep our children safe,” he said.
“In the face of a deadly pandemic … it would be irresponsible not to ask for vaccinations like we do with other diseases,” said Sampson, whose daughter is a CDS fifth grader and whose son is attending Taylor Allderdice High School. “I am so proud of the Community Day School. … We should take care of each other and the vulnerable. Having a vaccine mandate is not only good politics and good science, it is also very much in line with Jewish values. “
CDS mother Yana Mednik was less sure about that. The Squirrel Hill resident is vaccinated against COVID-19 but said she is uncomfortable with the school that needs the vaccine for her young children.
“My opinion will be unpopular, but I was shocked – not because they prescribed vaccines, but because they gave them such a short time,” said Mednik, who has a son in kindergarten and a daughter in third grade at CDS. “I want to see some information about side effects. I want to do research. “
CDS spokeswoman Jenn Bails defended the school’s vaccination mandate.
“This move is about keeping our children and school staff safe, keeping them in the classroom, and preventing the coronavirus from spreading to the community,” Bails told the Chronicle. “We already require students to be vaccinated against a range of disease-causing viruses such as measles and mumps. And there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same with COVID-19 if federal regulators deem it safe. “
Munro wrote in her October 21 email that “Achieving a high level of COVID-19 vaccination is one of the most important strategies to operate CDS safely and protect our most vulnerable people, especially given the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
“The vaccine dramatically reduces the incidence of serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 and has been strongly endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and public health officials for children and adolescents,” added Munro.
Currently, 95% of eligible CDS students – seventh and eighth graders – and 100% of CDS staff are fully vaccinated, CDS officials said.
Once the FDA approves vaccinations for children ages 5 and up, Munro said the school will work with Rite Aid to offer COVID-19 vaccine clinics. There are also plans to hold a town hall-style meeting with an online medical panel on November 3 at 7 p.m.
All medical exemptions for CDS students must be reviewed and approved by the school’s vaccination advisory committee, officials said.
“Please note that we consider vaccination as part of our Jewish obligation to protect our own life and the health of others,” said Munro. “Therefore, in accordance with Jewish principles and CDS principles, we will not grant any exceptions based on religious beliefs or strong moral or ethical beliefs.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer.