Parents split on Oregon's new vaccine mandate for educators

Some parents were comforted by the mandate, while others were concerned it forces educators to choose between getting vaccinated and risking losing their jobs.

Posted: Aug 19, 2021 7:16 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Gov. Kate Brown's announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all school staff is drawing mixed reactions among local parents.

Teachers and others who work at K-12 schools will be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after the vaccines receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whichever comes later.

RELATED: BROWN ORDERS TEACHERS, HEALTH CARE WORKERS TO BE VACCINATED

Some parents were comforted, knowing those responsible for their children throughout the school day would be less likely to spread COVID-19.

"I'm happy about that because I think it makes transmission of the COVID virus less likely for my kid and for other kids in the school," said Elliott Farren, father of an incoming kindergartner.

Others were concerned the mandate forces educators to choose between getting vaccinated and risking losing their jobs.

"I feel that it's an individual choice, so I don't think it should be mandated that our teachers have to be vaccinated," said parent Teia Brady.

The president of the Eugene Education Association, Sabrina Gordon, said the vast majority of educators in Eugene are already fully vaccinated.

"If we have the goal of keeping kids in-person learning full time as much as possible this year with as few disruptions as possible, this is the number one safety measure that can help make that happen," Gordon said.

Eugene School District 4J reported more than 80% of its staff members were vaccinated as of spring. That percentage has likely increased since then.

4J officials said the district is prepared to implement the new policy as soon as more detailed instructions are given. It's already checked the vaccination status for the majority of its staff and is planning to check vaccination status for the remaining staff members before Brown's deadline.

A spokesperson for 4J said a district-wide vaccine mandate was being considered until the governor announced a statewide mandate. They said the district's main goal is to keep children safe inside the classroom while learning in person.

So far, more than 2% of students in the district have opted into fully remote learning for the first semester, the district said. That number is expected to rise as the deadline to apply for online-only schooling is Monday.

According to Lane County Public Health, more than 60% of educators throughout the county are fully vaccinated at this time. There are roughly 10,000 total educators in the county.

Bethel and Springfield Public Schools have not responded to requests for comment at this time.

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