SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The San Francisco Unified School District announced that all district staff would be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly testing starting next month, joining a growing number of employers issuing vaccine mandates.

SFUSD officials announced Tuesday that the requirement for the district’s nearly 10,000 employees would be effective September 7.

The district has urged workers to submit their proof of vaccination by August 31. So far, more than half of employees have submitted their vaccination status.

“Given that we are in the midst of rising cases and new variants in our community, a vaccine requirement is a necessary step to keeping our students, staff and families safe,” Superintendent Vincent Matthews said in a statement.

Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez said the vaccine requirement is backed by members of the commission.

“We want to do everything in our power to keep our community safe and keep school buildings open for learning and connection,” Lopez said. “The pandemic is unpredictable but we have learned so much along the way and we know that vaccines remain highly effective — vaccinated people are much less likely to get severe symptoms that result in hospitalization or death from COVID.”

The head of the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), the union representing the city’s public school teachers, voiced her support of the vaccination requirement as well.

“As we all return to school buildings in person, we are glad that we can move forward welcoming students and families with excitement and ensuring the safest conditions possible in the midst of this continuing pandemic,” said UESF president Cassondra Curiel.

Christy Samson says she’s sending her 5-year-old daughter to kindergarten with more confidence, after the district’s announcement.

“Thankfully living in San Francisco people are pretty open to vaccinating and I’m thankful for that due to the fact that my 5-year-old has asthma, and she cannot be vaccinated,” said Samson. “So I’m okay with that right now and I really want to encourage people to get vaccinated.”

“The top three ways to protect the kids are vaccines, vaccines, and vaccines. And since they are not eligible for vaccines yet, the under 12 set that is, the best way to protect them is to form a wall of immunity around them,” said UCSF Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

Dozens of parents gathered outside the district headquarters Tuesday afternoon to protest the return to the classroom.

“I don’t think it’s safe to do in-person learning, at least not right now,” said middle school student Shingki Mo. “We should have the right to choose how we survive a pandemic.”

Parent Mercedes Lanao said the decision to get vaccinated should ultimately be left up to the individual

“I do not agree with that because some people have different conditions,” she said.

The district plans to resume full in-person learning at all grade levels starting August 16. For some schools, it will be the first time they will be open to in-person learning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SFUSD joins the City of San Francisco and numerous private employers in the Bay Area implementing a COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

While the vaccine requirement will not apply to students, both students and staff will continue to have access to COVID-19 testing throughout the school year, according to district officials.

In addition to the vaccination requirement for staff, students and staff will also have to adhere to indoor mask mandates, regardless of vaccination status, in alignment with the citywide health order that went into effect last week.

Betty Yu contributed to this report.