VACCINE MANDATE | WASHINGTON SCHOOLS

Covid Vaccine Mandate: Washington State requires all staff and teachers to get vaccinated

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announces a vaccine mandate for teachers in all public, private, and chart schools in the state as a condition of employment

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Covid Vaccine Mandate: Washington State requires all staff and teachers to get vaccinated
CHANDAN KHANNA AFP

Late Wednesday 18 August, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that all teachers in public, charter, and private schools across the state would be required to get vaccinated for covid-19 by 18 October. This vaccine mandate, one of the first of its kind in the United States forms a condition of employment, meaning that those who chose to forgo vaccination could lose their jobs. 

The requirement applies to those who work in K-12 schools such as, teachers, “coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers, and others working in school facilities,” as well as the majority of childcare facilities and those working at institutions of higher education.

What drove the governor to make this decision?

While Washington does have a high vaccination rate compared to the national average, it has not protected them from the delta variant.

A month ago on 19 July, the state confirmed just above 1,800 cases, and a month later, it confirmed over 3,700.

It is clear that Gov. Inslee and other educational leaders in the state want to see schools reopened this fall. In order to ensure the safety of all those who will present, Gov. Inslee saw a vaccination mandate as a necessary precaution.

When making the announcement, Gov. Inslee highlighted the emerging science showing that new variants pose a higher risk to children, ”This virus is increasingly impacting young people, and those under the age of 12 still can’t get the vaccine for themselves.”

The governor sees it as his responsibility to ensure students, teaches, and support staff are kept safe in the state’s schools and Gov. Inslee stated that he and other leaders “won’t gamble with the health of our children, our educators, and school staff, nor the health of the communities they serve.”

District level mandates in Seatle

The largest school district in the state is Seatle Public Schools (SPS).

The district is set to start on 1 September and officials are quickly preparing to ensure the facilities are safe for all those who will present across its 104 campuses.

The district has implemented a universal mask mandate for students, teachers, and staff.

Regardless of vaccination status, masks will continue to be worn, “In classrooms or in common areas,” when they are on school buses unless they have a medical exception, and for the time being outside to slow the possible spread while children are playing.

For teachers with students who are unable to wear masks because of a medical issue, they will be given enhanced PPE.

All other covid-19 safety protocols established by the district can be found on their website.