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Community reacts to vaccine mandate for school staff

By Governor Brown's orders – Oct. 18, is the deadline for all teachers, support staff, and volunteers in k-12 schools to submit proof of vaccination or receive an approved exemption.

Posted: Oct 18, 2021 7:23 PM
Updated: Oct 18, 2021 7:26 PM

EUGENE, Ore.-- Eugene 4J students enjoyed a long weekend as the school district scheduled a "vaccine mandate transition day" for Monday.

By Governor Brown's orders – Oct. 18, is the deadline for all teachers, support staff, and volunteers in K-12 schools to submit proof of vaccination or receive an approved exemption.

More than 96% of all regular district staff have been verified to be fully vaccinated in Eugene. That's more than 93% in Springfield and 96% in Bethel. Roseburg Public Schools didn't say how many employees did not get the vaccine. They said 99.8% have met the state's requirement of getting vaccinated or providing an exemption.

A spokesperson for the Eugene 4J told KEZI they've received more than 100 requests for exemptions. They're now assessing each one individually, which will take some time.

Parents have mixed reactions to the mandate.

4J parent of three, Sarah Ann Madrid, said she's had a hard time accepting this mandate.

"At the end of the day, I think the vaccine mandate is needed because there are so many people refusing to, but I am concerned," Madrid said.

Madrid said she's concerned the mandate is a slippery slope, leading to more mandates in the future.

But for others like 4J parent Jarl Berg, he is thankful for this mandate.

"I really hoped that this wouldn't have to happen, but I am kind of glad they are sticking to their guns a little bit and saying, 'this is a public safety issue, this is not a hard thing.' We all have been vaccinated in different areas of our lives; why is this one different," Berg said.

For Kathleen Pizzola, she has to accept a new reality. She's one of the few teachers with an approved exemption. However, this 6th-grade math teacher will have to leave her classroom behind.

"Today was my last technical day paid with the school district, and as of tomorrow for the foreseeable future, I'm placed on essentially administrative unpaid leave," Pizzola said.

The Fern Ridge school district recently decided it wasn't safe for unvaccinated teachers to remain at their normal post.

"Any teaching staff, or educational support staff, secretary, anything like that that are unvaccinated, they felt we were too much of essentially a danger to be around the kids that closely," Pizzola said.

She said right now, there's no option to come back if she decides to get the vaccine. But she said her superintendent would consider giving her the job back next year, depending on the current state and mandates.

Pizzola said she wishes the district would've worked with her more. She said the school district wouldn't allow any accommodations for those not vaccinated who work closely with the students, even if their exemption was approved.

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