Seattle Public Schools requires all ‘non-represented’ staff to be vaccinated
All employees with Seattle Public Schools have been directed to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment.
Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones said in an email sent Thursday to district employees that all “non-represented Seattle Public Schools staff” have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated. Jones says a procedure detailing the requirement and a system to confirm vaccination status will be communicated soon. There will be exemptions allowed for “documented medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs.”
A school spokesperson told KIRO Radio that non-union employees must comply with this mandate. As for union employees, they cannot be forced to prove vaccination unless their representatives agree. Negotiations are being scheduled with the unions involved.
The same spokesperson told KIRO Radio that there are 12,887 total employees, which includes teachers, substitutes, hourly employees, and other full-time equivalent employees. There are 4,384 teachers.
Read the full text of the email sent by the superintendent to all district employees below:
Dear SPS Colleagues:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Seattle Public Schools staff, families, partners, and students have worked with a common purpose and focus – to keep our communities healthy and safe.
Together, we have been able to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our schools by using effective, layered preventive strategies, including masks, regular hand washing, physical distancing, contact tracing, and soon we will be adding diagnostic school-based testing. According to health experts at the CDC and the Washington State Department of Health, vaccines are another critical strategy in our fight against COVID, including the highly transmissible Delta variant. Vaccines are working and reduce hospitalizations and fatalities Vaccinations help protect our staff and help reduce unnecessary risk for our students.
Parents and caregivers are entrusting their children’s lives to us. Half of our students are not yet eligible for vaccination, and likely won’t be for many months. We must do everything within our power to support healthy and safe schools. It is our obligation.
It is in this spirit that I hereby direct that all non-represented Seattle Public Schools staff be vaccinated against COVID-19. As a condition of employment, employees will have until October 18, 2021 to become fully vaccinated. A Superintendent Procedure detailing this requirement, along with our system of confirming each employee’s vaccination status, will be communicated soon from Human Resources. It will include limited exemptions from this requirement for documented medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs.
Given the importance of this issue to our schools and community, I am encouraging all of our labor partners to join us in a commitment to mandate vaccines for all of our staff. I have directed our central office team to immediately begin bargaining with all our labor partners to establish this mandate for each of our represented staff. I appreciate the strong support of our Principals Association of Seattle Schools for this mandate and thank them for their leadership on this important school and public health measure. I am hopeful all our labor partners will readily agree to implement this critical measure to further public health and protect our school communities.
This mandate is one part of and will not replace the layered preventive strategies we are continuing to put in place to ensure we have a safe, healthy, and successful new school year.
I wish you all well, and a good end to your summer.
Dr. Brent Jones
Seattle Public Schools
State Superintendent Chris Reykdal is asking Gov. Jay Inslee to require all K-12 school employees in Washington to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. In practice, Reykdal hopes to enact a policy for schools that’s identical to a recent order from Gov. Inslee for state workers.
The governor’s current vaccine order applies to most state workers and workers in private health care, long-term care, and other congregate settings. It does not currently apply to school employees.
An identical mandate was issued by Executive Dow Constantine and Mayor Jenny Durkan to be enacted for King County and Seattle city workers as well.
A vaccine mandate for students is not currently under consideration.
The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.