Students exit a bus at Venice High School in Los Angeles, Calif., December 2015. (Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters)

The Los Angeles Unified School District has fired 496 employees for not complying with its Covid-19 vaccine mandate as of Tuesday.

“We care deeply about all of our employees,” Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said in a statement to Fox News. “Parting ways with individuals who choose not to be vaccinated is an extremely difficult but necessary decision to ensure the safety of all in our school communities. We wish everyone the best in their future endeavors and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

The terminated employees may be eligible to return to their jobs if they choose to get vaccinated.

The district is the second largest in the U.S. and employs some 73,000 staff. It first implemented an October 15 deadline for workers to be fully vaccinated but later delayed the date to November 15.

Nearly 99 percent of district employees complied with the mandate, the district said.

The union representing many district employees said the mandate is worsening preexisting staff shortages.

“While we support and encourage vaccination for our entire school community, we believe LAUSD’s punitive approach is shutting the doors on experienced and dedicated school workers and exacerbating staffing shortages that already existed before the pandemic that, ultimately, affect student services,” the SEIU Local 99 told Fox News. 

“We continue in negotiations with the district and are demanding that LAUSD honor the re-employment rights of workers by following a reduction-in-force process which will grant all workers up to 39 months to return to LAUSD when they are vaccinated,” the union added. 

Meanwhile, students who are eligible to receive the vaccine face a January 10, 2022, deadline to get the shots unless they have a qualified exemption. Some 85 percent of the district’s nearly 630,000 students have complied with the mandate requiring those twelve and older to get vaccinated.

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