School Employee Vaccine Mandate Takes Effect 10/19

Gov Inslee

On October 19, public schools in the State of Washington implemented the vaccination mandate put in effect by Governor Inslee and the OSPI. 

Inslee announced the vaccination requirement for K-12 school employees back on August 18 (Proclamation 21-14.1). OSPI subsequently issued guidance on religious and medical exemptions to this requirement.  It was later clarified that the exemption process was not so much of an exemption as it was an accommodation; those seeking an alternative to vaccination would need to meet other safety requirements to comply with the mandate. Earlier this month, OSPI clarified that there was no standard approach to additional health and safety mitigation requirements for those granted accommodations. In a letter to school districts, Chris Reykdal wrote:

Consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the accommodation process is based on the individual needs of the employee and the employer. It’s about finding reasonable accommodations that balances the employee’s exemption with the employer’s responsibilities to keep employees, volunteers, and students safe.  

There are several additional health and safety mitigation strategies that districts around the state are using for unvaccinated employees that have been granted an accommodation to the vaccine mandate. One or more of these in combination may include:

  • Other job duties that do not include interaction with other staff and students;
  • Double masking;
  • Additional PPE requirements;
  • Additional physical distancing requirements;
  • Additional hygiene mandates;
  • Daily symptom checks and health attestations;
  • Prohibitions to eating with other staff or students;
  • Weekly or twice-weekly COVID testing; or
  • Any other reasonable expectation that reduces the likely transmission of COVID. 

There are different beliefs regarding this mandate, but its intent is to make schools as safe as possible for staff and students. As of October 19, all HSD employees are either vaccinated or following additional safety precautions. We know this has been a difficult process for many employees and appreciate everyone's efforts to keep our schools open for in-person learning. 

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