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On deadline, local districts report COVID-19 vaccine compliance

School districts throughout the Rogue Valley showed high compliance with the governor’s coronavirus vaccine mandate Monday, when it went into effect.

According to OAR 333-019-1030, teachers, staff and volunteers may not be involved at a school in any way after Oct. 18 unless they can show proof they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide proof of a medical or religious exemption.

Even on that day, school districts such as Ashland were seeing numbers trickle in, with more employees complying.

“School should be as safe as it can be,” said Sam Bogdanove, superintendent of the Ashland School District. “It’s absolutely a tough thing that we weren’t able to mitigate for everyone, but the interest was in providing the safest environment we can for kids.”

His comments came even as there were demonstrations in his city protesting the vaccine mandate. Meanwhile, word circulated on social media of a “national school walk-out” Oct. 18, with teachers from Medford to New Jersey announcing they would not come to school that day.

Medford School District said Monday it had reached 98% compliance of its more than 1,500 employees — 1,207 seven employees were fully vaccinated or in series; 283 had an approved exemption; and 30 had failed to respond; seven were in the process of re-submitting proof of vaccination; and four indicated they would not comply.

“The good news is we’ve seen very little impact,” Leah Thompson, communications specialist for the district, wrote in an email.

Of the 812 employees of Grants Pass School District No. 7, 616 employees (76%) were fully vaccinated; 170 (21%) took an exemption, nine took unpaid leave, seven resigned, three chose to retire/leave outright. Seven employees were on leave for other reasons.

Central Point School District has approximately 610 employees. As of Monday, it was in full compliance with the mandate, Walt Davenport, superintendent of the Central Point School District 6, wrote in an email.

Seventy-six percent of the district’s employees are fully vaccinated, he said. Twenty-one percent obtained a medical or religious exception. Only 2.5% resigned or went on unpaid leave, equating to three teachers and approximately 12 classified support staff.

“Overall, I am pleased with how our district navigated the mandate. While it was a difficult position to be in, I think there were many good conversations that occurred and people became more informed about COVID-19,” Davenport wrote. “Individuals’ rights were honored, and vaccination rates did increase. We are disappointed to lose any employees at this time.”

He noted that the noncompliance had a direct impact on instruction, requiring the district to “shift people around and reassign employees.”

“We will continue to work diligently to keep our schools open in spite of the ongoing challenges with the labor market and COVID protocols,” Davenport wrote.

According to information provided by the Three Rivers School District, of its 645 staff members, 97% were retained due to compliance with the mandate. Some 489 were vaccinated, 136 received an exemption, 15 retired or resigned, three took a leave of absence and two were dismissed.

Ashland School District Monday reported 96% of 416 regular employees, including coaches, were vaccinated. Of those not vaccinated, 12 employees received an exemption, four resigned and three were placed on unpaid leave. Two were terminated because they did not request an exception.

“There are good teachers, good educators that, ultimately in a tough situation made the choice that they felt was best for them,” Bogdanove said. “Overall, our emphasis was wanting to do everything we can as a district to reduce the number of vectors in the classroom and provide a safe environment for our kids.”

Of Phoenix-Talent School District’s 299 employees, 275 were vaccinated, 22 received an exemption, and two staffers -- one certified, the other classified -- who were placed on unpaid leave.

“Out of 300 staff members, that’s pretty good,” Superintendent Brent Barry said Friday. “The message that it sends is we’re going to be just fine serving kids moving forward with plenty of staff members. If we do have staff members that are choosing a leave of absence for the year, we are in position to fill those positions with qualified staff.”

Patrick Lee, superintendent of the Rogue River School District, said that of the 147 employees and subcontracted employees the district has records of, 111 are fully vaccinated, 36 received exceptions and no one resigned or was put on leave.

Prospect Charter School said 100% of its staff is compliant, according to superintendent, Brian Purnell. Seventeen employees were vaccinated, while 26 received a religious exemption.

Prior to the deadline, Dr. Phil Long, superintendent of Butte Falls School District 91, told the newspaper his district “will be ready (with very little margin) to continue with our daily school schedule” when the Oct. 18 deadline comes.

One hundred percent of the Butte Falls administration is fully vaccinated, 95% of teachers are fully vaccinated — with one approved exception — and 70% of classified support staff received the vaccine, while six of them were approved for exemptions.

Eagle Point spokesperson Dean MacInnis said the district’s human resources administrator is the only employee who has access to vaccination information and was out of the office for the week.

A representative with Pinehurst School District 94 said she did not want to reveal percentages of those who are vaccinated against COVID-19.