The vast majority of staff members at public school districts on the North Olympic Peninsula are either vaccinated for COVID-19 or have been approved for exemptions and so the districts will not have severe impacts from the state’s vaccination mandate deadline of Oct. 18.
Monday, Oct. 4, was the last day for public school staff, state workers and hospital workers to either receive a Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to be in compliance with Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccination mandate.
For staff members who were approved for medical or religious exemptions, the districts are taking extra measures to prevent them from getting sick from COVID-19, such as weekly testing, enhanced masking requirements and strict social distancing.
Port Angeles School District, the largest in Clallam County, is set to see at least six possible resignations/ terminations out of its 553 staff and teachers due to non-compliance, according to Carmen Geyer, community relations coordinator, on Friday.
That could change, since the district still had a week to compile information before the Oct. 18 deadline.
Over 40 employees — teachers and other staffers — had been granted religious or medical exemptions and will be subject to consistent testing per the requirements of the mandate.
Beyond that, nearly 94 percent of PASD staff and 95 percent of PASD teachers were fully vaccinated as of Friday, with 15 pending staff verifications and 14 pending teacher verifications, Geyer said.
In the Sequim School District, as of Friday, eight people out of 411 employees were considered non-compliant in that they had responses outstanding, according to Victoria Balint, director of Human Resources.
“We are optimistic that we will have 100 percent compliance, but if an employee started the vaccination process late, we would absolutely work with them,” she said in an email. “This will most likely look like being on leave until they have completed the process.”
Of those whose responses were outstanding, one was a teacher, two were paraeducators, three were bus drivers and two were custodians.
Balint reported that 360 staff members had been vaccinated, 37 received religious accommodations, two received medical accommodations and four were on leave.
“Those with accommodations must wear masks at all times, practice the maximum social distancing and test for COVID weekly,” she said.
Crescent School District reported that 100 percent of its teaching staff is fully vaccinated, but three of its administrative employees are likely to resign or be terminated due to the vaccination mandate.
“Truthfully, for our organization, I have been working very, very hard the last few days to try to figure out specifically what’s going to happen in our offices,” Superintendent Dave Bingham said last week.
“I’ve had a few viable options come up but I really want to go out and recruit and hire people to fill those positions, but I’d be happy to farm some of those out for the time being.
“I’ve had a handful of exemption requests,” Bingham said. “Most of those are temporary or substitute employees who work in multiple districts, but are employed by us.”
Quillayute Valley School District reported that 85 percent of its administrative and teaching staff had been fully vaccinated but that specific data would not be publicly available until it has been reported to the state.
“QVSD is very fortunate in that our district is very minimally impacted by the mandate, and 99.9 percent of our staff are in compliance with the mandate by being fully vaccinated or approved to receive accommodations to ensure the safety of our students and employees,” Superintendent Diana Reaume said in an email.
”We are sorting through our data as we have just now completed the process of working with each of our staff members to ensure compliance.”
Cape Flattery School District reported that the majority of its 135 employees, both staff and teachers, had been vaccinated as of last week, with eight having been granted exemptions.
“Many of our staff were vaccinated prior to the mandate,” said Cape Flattery Superintendent Michelle Perkins last week.
“That was in large part due to the efforts of the Makah Tribe offering early vaccination to all of our staff on the Neah Bay and Clallam Bay campuses and then also (Clallam) County coming in and offering vaccination clinics.”
In Jefferson County, only the Chimacum School District appears headed to losing staff members —about four to six — due to them not getting vaccinated or approved for an exemption.
Port Townsend School District will not lose any staff members due to the vaccination mandate, said Superintendent Linda Rosenbury on Thursday.
“We had full compliance with the governor’s mandate,” she said.
Ninety-three percent of staff members have provided proof of full vaccination and 7 percent have been approved for exemptions by the state, Rosenbury said.
The “vast majority” of staff at Chimacum are either vaccinated or received an exemption, said Superintendent Scott Mauk, who estimated that about 90 percent are fully vaccinated.
All certified staff —such as teachers — are fully vaccinated, he said.
Due to losing the handful of staff members, some slight reorganizing is being evaluated by the district such as bus routes, and the district has increased its advertising for job openings, but overall, Mauk feels the district will be fine.
“I’m feeling pretty lucky right now,” he said. “We’re going to have challenges but I think we’re going to be OK and I know other districts in the state are going to have a way harder time in keeping schools open.
“I’m confident we’re in the guidelines and we’re keeping kids and staff safe.”
Quilcene School District will not have to put on leave or terminate any staff due to the mandate, said Superintendent Frank Redmon.
Eighty-seven percent of the staff are vaccinated and 13 percent were approved for exemptions, he said.
All of the certified staff who teach in-person are fully vaccinated, Redmon said.
Some of the exempted staff work remotely and do not interact with students or staff in person, Redmon said.
All of Brinnon School District’s staff members have either been vaccinated or have received exemptions, Superintendent Trish Beathard said.
About 82 percent of the staff at Brinnon, a K-8 school, were fully vaccinated as of Friday and the remainder have exemptions, Beathard said.
The district is working with exempted staff on a case-by-case basis for accommodations.
“While I would consider personal exemptions to be confidential, in general careful masking and compliance with requests to take COVID tests would be considered,” she said.
Beathard is glad that she will not lose staff due to the mandate.
“I feel really grateful that I don’t have to deal with that, but also am grateful for having a wonderful staff,” Beathard said.
“They want to do the right thing, they want to support the schools being open.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected]. Reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]. Contributing to this story was Michael Dashiell, the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].