Spokane public schools wait to release details to welcome unvaccinated employees



With a critical deadline looming, public schools in Spokane have yet to say what protections they will offer its 30,000 students against unvaccinated staff who have been granted exemptions to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

But the district suggested those unvaccinated workers may need to wear additional personal protective equipment.

About 350 employees in the Spokane Public School District have submitted requests for waivers of Governor Jay Inslee’s tenure, the district said Friday.

About 350 others have yet to declare their intentions, a district spokesperson confirmed.

Officially, employees have until October 18 to declare their intentions. However, they must have received the vaccine by Monday to be considered fully vaccinated by October 18.

At this point, the district must decide what accommodations it will grant to employees whose requests for religious or medical exemptions are accepted.

When asked on Friday what measures the district was considering in response to employees seeking exemptions and then housing to keep their jobs, district communications director Sandra Jarrard offered a brief response via email: “A example of accommodation would be additional PPE requirements. “

Of the approximately 5,200 full-time and part-time staff in the district, approximately 3,800 are either vaccinated or have voluntarily left their jobs.

The district did not disclose how many unvaccinated employees looking for housing have face-to-face interaction with teachers, students and staff.

The school district also did not disclose how many employee requests for religious or medical exemptions were denied.

“Our human resources department has worked hard to get through this process, and we want to do it really intentionally,” Swinyard said.

Jeremy Shay, president of the Spokane Education Association, said this week he had no complaints from members.

“It’s been going really well so far,” Shay said.

The exemption guidelines were released by the Office of the State Superintendent on August 18.

The language places a heavy burden of proof on employers to deny exemption requests.

He begins: “Federal religious accommodation guidelines encourage employers to assume that an employee’s request for religious accommodation is based on an honest belief in a religion, unless the employer has a valid reason and objective of interviewing the employee.

The second paragraph ends with more ambiguity: “Moral or ethical beliefs about what is right and wrong, which are sincerely supported by the force of traditional religious views, may meet the definition of a sincere religious belief.

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