Mill Creek Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

By Christopher Kim
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

Governor orders school staff to get vaccinated

Those who don't comply could possibly lose jobs

 

Last updated 9/3/2021 at 12:17pm

Photo courtesy of Medium

Gov. Jay Inslee announces a new mask-wearing mandate for teachers.

Per Gov. Jay Inslee's mandate on Aug. 18, Everett Public Schools educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers, and all others working in school facilities will have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated as a required condition of employment.

Inslee announced the vaccination requirement for employees working in K-12, most child-care and early learning, and higher education, in addition to a statewide mask mandate regardless of vaccination status.

The governor was joined for the announcement by Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah.

As with state employees and private health-care workers, there will be no test-out option. Unions may bargain with school districts to negotiate time off to receive the vaccine or recover from symptoms of the vaccine.

"This requirement doesn't change any of our protocol, but does add an extra layer of protection for our staff and students," Everett Public Schools communications director Kathy Reeves said.

"Staff are allowed to apply for a religious or medical exemption if they cannot receive the vaccine. If they do not have a qualifiable exemption then, according to the state, they do not meet the conditions of employment."

An issue that could arise from noncompliance is a shortage of staff this school year, though it is unlikely that this will be a problem, according to Reeves.

"We will be working with our staff who have exemptions, and will continue to ensure adequate staffing for all essential positions in the district," she said.

Educator vaccine requirement

The requirement includes public, private, and charter schools, and comes as schools across the state prepare to return for the 2021–22 school year amid rapidly increasing cases and hospitalization numbers.

This does not impact students, regardless of age.

"It has been a long pandemic, and our students and teachers have borne their own unique burdens throughout," Inslee said in a news release.

"This virus is increasingly impacting young people, and those under the age of 12 still can't get the vaccine for themselves. We won't gamble with the health of our children, our educators, and school staff, nor the health of the communities they serve."

"As our school buildings reopen this fall for in-person learning, vaccination of our school employees will be a key mitigation measure to protect the health and safety of our students, staff, and families," said Reykdal.

"Our ability to maintain continued in-person learning without major COVID-related disruptions will depend on low virus transmission within our schools. I appreciate the governor's leadership in taking this important step in the fight against the spread of this virus."

Just like the state worker mandate, there are limited exceptions under law which employees may apply for, including legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs. Individuals who refuse to get vaccinated will be subject to dismissal.

Higher education and child-care/early learning

Inslee also announced a vaccine requirement for employees in Washington's higher education institutions, as well as for most child-care and early learning providers who serve children from multiple households.

• Education staff, faculty, and contractors are required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, consistent with the state worker vaccination requirement timeline.

• Child-care providers affected by the requirement include the following groups: licensed, certified, and contracted early learning and child-care programs

• License-exempt early learning, child-care, and youth-development programs

• Contractors (coaches, volunteers, trainers, etc.)

Not included in this mandate are providers delivering family, friends, and neighbor care.

 

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