MEDFORD, Ore. — Oregon's vaccination deadline for educators and healthcare workers has arrived, and Medford School District officials say that they are in good shape.
According to the District, more than 97% of staff are in compliance — either by being fully vaccinated or by submitting a valid exception.
"The vast majority of our staff have taken this very serious — they're here today to work with kids," said MSD assistant superintendent Brad Earl.
The Medford School District has more than 1,500 employees. Earl said that as of Monday, 80% are considered fully vaccinated. Another 17% or so either received a valid medical or religious exception, or they were office workers who qualified for another kind of exception under state rules.
At present, Earl said that a total of 40 people are not in compliance. About a quarter of those are coaches not directly employed by the District — at least some of whom are not coaching this current season — who did not understand that they would be covered by the requirement, according to the assistant superintendent. Most of the remainder are classified employees.
There are four teachers in total who have not either turned in proof of vaccination or a valid exception. Earl said that in all of these hold-out cases, the District is working with people on an individual basis toward a resolution.
Earl said that one First Student bus driver and four District employees have directly indicated that they don't intend to comply.
In all cases, Earl said that the District is not leading with immediate termination of employment. Depending on the staff member's individual situation, they'll either be placed on paid or unpaid leave for the time being.
"We would love to reach a point where we agree to some standard that they can live with and they stay at the Medford School District, but that's a pretty small group, so we're very pleased about where we're at," Earl said.
Earl said that that even if some of these staff do end up parting ways with the District, the impact does not compare to the disruption caused by having to quarantine students and teachers when positive COVID-19 cases pop up.
"We were cautiously optimistic because statistically we had more people who were vaccinated, or we had worked through some sort of an exception with, prior to this mandate," Earl said. "If you compare it to community-wide levels, we were outpacing the community.
"So we felt cautiously optimistic that our team was going to get on board with this, knowing that we put kids at the center of our decisions, and that it's inconvenient right now, but it's a heck of a lot better than not having in-person school. So we are pleased — a little sigh of relief that everyone's here and working with kids."
By and large, impacts have similarly light in other southern Oregon school districts. Grants Pass School District said that 14 of its 800 employees have either resigned or been placed on unpaid leave. Central Point School District said 15 out of 600 employees resigned or went on unpaid leave.
Klamath Falls City Schools was the first local district to tell NewsWatch 12 that it had either terminated the employment of several staff members or had them resign.