After a year and a half of remote and hybrid learning, my top priorities as our school buildings reopen for full-time in-person learning are providing for the continued health and safety of our students, staff, and families; as well as maintaining a continuity of learning without major COVID-related disruptions.
The rapid increase in cases of COVID-19 due to the highly contagious Delta variant requires us to deploy every protective measure we have. Especially when so many students aren’t yet eligible to receive the vaccine — and the protection against the virus that comes along with it — our staff must join together to create as strong of a protective barrier as possible.
That is why I made the recommendation to Gov. Inslee to take this action. The governor’s order requires all employees working in our state’s public and private K–12 schools to be fully vaccinated to protect against COVID-19 by October 18, 2021. The order allows employees to obtain a medical or religious exemption if needed.
I want to be clear: This order should not delay or impact our return to full-time, in-person learning this fall. Employees who are not yet vaccinated will have time to do so while still working and serving students. In addition, the order is specific to school employees and is not related to the vaccination of students.
Going back to remote learning because of quarantine or school building closures due to COVID-19 transmission is a real threat this school year. Knowing that an in-person learning experience surrounded by their educators, caring staff, and peers is the best opportunity for most students, we must do everything we can to make our schools as safe and healthy as possible.
I support the governor in taking this action and I encourage all of our school employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal issued this statement Aug. 18.