School staff approved for vaccine exemptions may have extra safety protocols to follow

MEDFORD, Ore.- With less than a month until Governor Kate Brown’s vaccination mandate deadline, some school staff may be seeking exemptions.  But even if it is approved, they may still be required to take certain protective steps.

We’ve told you before what school employees must go through to get a religious or medical exemption to the state’s vaccine mandate.  But what other steps do those teachers have to take, if they aren’t getting vaccinated?

“We are requiring some additional requirements for those employees, that’s per the rule,” said Medford School District Superintendent Bret Champion. The rule he is referring to comes from the Oregon Health Authority.

On the Secretary of State‘s website, it says schools that grant exceptions to the requirement must take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 with unvaccinated staff. It goes on to say that nothing in this rule is intended to prohibit schools from having more restrictive or additional requirements.

On an OHA question and answer page, the state lays out some of the things a school could require.

It includes wearing a n95 mask, being physical distanced from others, working a modified shift, getting tested regularly, or even working remotely. It’s unclear if these suggested safety measures are the same for all schools across the state or just suggestions that schools or school districts can expand upon.

At MSD, it’s being done on a case by case basis.

“For us that is weekly testing or, if there is concern, then the employee can meet with HR and talk about another standard which could be a K95 mask or double masking- things like that,” Champion explained. He says any requirements given to unvaccinated staff will be on top of the schools existing safety measures against Covid-19.

“This doesn’t change any of the incredible work that our folks at the school level are doing, like masking and social distancing and all the rules around all the things. Those are still very much still in place,” he said.

We reached out to several local and state teachers unions to see if there are any additional discussions about accommodations for unvaccinated school staff. We have yet to hear back from any of them.

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Grace Smith
Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.
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