Clark County School Districts See Strong Vaccine Response

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Monday marked the deadline for employees of public, private and charter schools in Washington to be fully immunized against the coronavirus. Those who have not done so must have applied for a medical or religious exemption by the deadline in order to keep their job.

In Clark County, lingering problems with school staff have led some to question whether the deadline would exacerbate these shortages.

Early results, however, show that the vast majority of school employees in major districts – well over 90 percent – complied with the mandate.

Evergreen Public Schools, the county’s largest district, reported that 91.2% of employees showed proof of vaccination, while 8.8% obtained a medical or religious exemption.

Bill Beville, president of the Evergreen Education Association, said a small “handful” of its union members had failed to live up to the mandate and had prepared for a much worse response.

“It turned out better than I expected,” said Beville. “But if you weren’t cleared today, you’re not at work today.”

One thing Beville had failed to realize, he said, was the number of staff who had been vaccinated but had simply not yet reported their status to the district. The mandate, he said, led many teachers and staff to share their status.

In Vancouver public schools, this trend has remained constant: 92.4 percent of employees reported having been vaccinated and 7.6 percent received an approved medical or religious exemption.

One employee resigned in lieu of tenure, while another was placed on unpaid administrative leave with a recommendation for termination, said VPS communications director Pat Nuzzo.

“I am grateful for the overwhelming positive response from our employees and for their continued dedication to serving our students in the safest manner possible,” Superintendent Jeff Snell said in a press release Monday.

For those who have been approved for an exemption, they must meet masking and social distancing requirements and may be subject to regular COVID-19 testing depending on cases, tasks and other factors, Nuzzo said.

In Battle Ground, the county’s third largest district, about 85 percent of employees provided proof of vaccination, while the remaining 15 percent were approved for an exemption. Like the other two main districts, less than 1% of Battle Ground employees failed to meet the mandate.

The Camas school district has seen 100 percent of its employees comply with the mandate, with around 92 percent showing proof of vaccination. The Ridgefield School District also reported that all but one of its 359 employees fulfilled the mandate, with just over 91% receiving the vaccine.

Statistics for Green Mountain, Hockinson, La Center, Washougal and Woodland will be provided later this week.

The warrant, which was announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Aug. 18, follows a recommendation by State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, who urged that mass vaccinations among school employees could ensure a safer and faster return to in-person education. .

Vancouver Education Association president Kari Van Nostran said there was a greater sense of uncertainty when the tenure was initially announced. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Education, however, helped develop a cohesive exemption form and worked with teacher unions to help them better understand how to approach the mandate, which dispelled many of these initial concerns.

While the tenure has yielded positive results across the county, Van Nostran noted that staff shortages are still a serious problem for VPS and other districts in the region as they continue to find their place as the pandemic continues to play a role in schools.

“The concern will persist throughout the year,” she said.


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