School districts preparing for staff vaccination deadline

Find out how local districts are planning to handle staff members with approved exemptions.

Posted: Sep 30, 2021 6:52 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- Oregon teachers and staff have just over two weeks until they have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Under Gov. Kate Brown's mandate, the deadline is Oct. 18. Staff members can apply for a religious or medical exemption, however.

A spokesperson for Eugene School District 4J told KEZI 9 News that as of Thursday, about 91% of the district’s 2,150 regular staff members are fully vaccinated, and nine are at least partially vaccinated. About 64 are not vaccinated. The district is reviewing medical and religious exemptions that have been submitted, and they said they are considering options such as enhanced safety measures, job reassignment, and unpaid leave.

RELATED: Parents split on Oregon's new vaccine mandate for educators

KEZI 9 News spoke to Sabrina Gordon, the president of the Eugene Education Association. Gordon said along with Eugene and Bethel schools continuing to implement multiple safety measures, vaccination is still the best way to keep everyone safe.

"Our districts in Eugene are moving forward to make that happen," said Gordon.

Gordon also said there are still a lot of unknowns as far as what things will look like for Eugene and Bethel school districts. She said there are a lot of potential things that could happen to teachers who decide to apply for a medical or religious exemption.

"I think that one of accommodations that potentially could be offered is an unpaid leave," Gordon said. "So, that person would continue to be employed by the school district, but not an active employee this year."

KEZI 9 News also reached out to the Springfield School District, and a spokesperson said their Human Resources department is working through different process and procedures with the vaccine mandate.

Springfield Education Association President Jonathan Gault said there are a lot of “what-ifs” for teachers right now.

MORE: Educators and students react to in-person classroom learning mandate

“I think the most challenging thing for all of us is what does the future hold?" said Gault. “Those unknowns could be, 'What is my daily schedule going to look like? Am I going to have a break?'”

Gordon also said teachers and members of the district should be working together to keep students and staff safe.

“Whatever the district can do to support the educators who are there in the classrooms through all of the things that they need to be the best teachers they can for the students in front of them, we need to be doing that,” said Gordon.

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