Nearly all staff at the Snoqualmie Valley School District have complied with Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, and none had to be fired, according to district Superintendent Lance Gibbon.
At the district’s Oct. 6 school board meeting, Gibbon said 92.1% of staff had complied with the vaccination mandate, while 7.9% of staff received a religious or medical exemption. Those who received an exemption will need to continue to wear a mask, even in outdoor settings, maintain six feet of social distancing when possible, eat away from others, and submit to periodic testing, Gibbon said.
On Sept. 14, the Valley Record reported that 120 district staff had not yet reported their vaccination status or filed an exemption.
School staff, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, coaches and some volunteers, were required to get vaccinated after Inslee issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Aug. 18. Those who still needed the shot were required to become fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, meaning their last opportunity was to get the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Oct. 4.
The district continues to see a low number of COVID cases in its schools, with only one case last week. As of Oct. 1, the district had just seven cases in the last 14 days, according to its COVID-19 dashboard. In that time span, only Twin Falls Middle School had multiple cases. Since school began Aug. 31, the district has seen 39 cases.
The Department of Health also recently approved school districts’ Test to Stay program, meaning unvaccinated studentswho are in-close contact with a positive COVID case will no longer be required to quarantine, assuming they can continue to test negative, remain asymptomatic and avoid extracurriculars.
If a student is identified as a close contact, they must test negative at least twice in a seven-day span to remain in school. The district has on-site, rapid testing available for students and staff at all its schools. Previously, only vaccinated students in close contact with a positive case could remain in the classroom with a negative test.
“In the past, you might have had to quarantine an entire classroom,” Gibbon said.
It is not immediately clear if the City of Snoqualmie, which also has a vaccination mandate for its employees with an Oct. 18 deadline, will have to layoff any employees for failing to comply. A city spokesperson said they will know more as the deadline approaches.
“We’re spending quite a bit of time working on [the mandate],” Interim City Administrator Mark Correira said at the Sept. 27 city council meeting. “We’re negotiating with the three labor unions and making good headway with them.”
Mayor Matt Larson said several city employees had file for exemptions that could be rejected, and they expect some pushback going forward.