Vaccination of school board members sparks controversy

Eugene 4J, Bethel and Springfield School districts are all offering their school board members the chance to get vaccinated.

Posted: Feb 11, 2021 7:05 PM
Updated: Feb 11, 2021 7:08 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- The decision to vaccinate members of local school boards is causing controversy. This comes as community leaders have ensured the public that they're doing everything in their power to make the distribution process equitable. 

This isn't the first time a decision made during the vaccine rollout has caused a stir. When Gov. Kate Brown decided to prioritize educators over seniors who do not live in nursing homes, many people were outraged. 

The backlash we are seeing over districts' decisions to put shots in the arms of school board members isn't surprising given a lot of people in high-risk groups have yet to get the vaccine. 

Now that some board members are vaccinated, many people in the community are demanding that they take accountability. 

4J spokesperson Kerry Delf said there are several reasons they decided to vaccinate their board members. After the district was able to vaccinate those who have the most contact with students, they gave board members the chance to get one. She told KEZI 9 News some members chose to get vaccinated and others did not.

However, she said their reasoning behind this decision is simple. The school board will be returning to in-person meetings with students, staff and community members so this is the next step they need to take in order to allow that to happen safely. 

"The school board engages with staff and community as well as with students, including the students who are representatives to the school board. So, they'll be returning to in-person meetings starting in March. It won't be until mid-March, around the same time as we are returning to in-person learning for the youngest grades," Delf said. 

A Bethel spokesperson said their school board members will now be invited to receive the vaccine too. KEZI has learned those members are last on the school district's priority list along with volunteer coaches. 

A spokesperson said their thought process is that school board members are more effective when they're able to have their meetings in person and being vaccinated will allow them to do that safely. 

Springfield Public Schools will also be offering the vaccine to their board members. The most recent invitation the district sent out went to all staff including board members. 

Many community members said it is an unethical decision and just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Especially because only 3% of Lane County residents have actually received both doses. 

It is up to the school districts and the Oregon Department of Education to decide who gets what in terms of doses. Lane County Public Health's role in all of this is to give whatever doses are asked for to them. 

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