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Portland Public Schools to require employees get vaccinated against COVID-19

All employees will be required to show proof of full vaccination by August 31 unless they have an approved exemption.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Public Schools (PPS) will require all employees to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the district announced Wednesday. 

All employees must provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination by Aug. 31 unless they have an approved exemption, according to PPS. 

On Wednesday, Portland Public Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Sharon Reese told KGW that each vaccine exemption will be reviewed. 

"We will need confirmation from a qualified medical care provider on any medical exemption. And, we will be reviewing that each religious exemption that is requested is based on bonified beliefs," said Reese.

Employees who are unable to get vaccinated for personal health reasons, or those who do not provide proof of full vaccination, will be required to get tested for COVID-19. 

PPS did not say how often employees would be tested, only that they would be tested regularly. Although, the option to get tested in lieu of a vaccine may not last all year, according to Reese. 

“Vaccinations against COVID-19 are the most effective way to protect children, youth and adults,” said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. “Parents can rest assured that our school system is exercising every available lever, including the requirement of vaccines and masks and the implementation of other health and safety measures, to protect every PPS student, our employees and our Portland community.”  

RELATED: Districts large and small prepare for upcoming school year

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Schools will fully reopen on Sept. 1. PPS said it's finalizing its vaccine requirement plan for school volunteers and contractors. Their announcement did not mention any plans to require eligible students to be vaccinated. 

“Vaccination is our most powerful tool to get our students back to in-person learning, and restore the interaction and personal connection that is such a crucial part of learning,” said Elizabeth Thiel, the president of the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT). “While the vast majority of PAT members are already vaccinated, this mandate is an important step toward ensuring that everyone in our school communities is vaccinated, if they are able to be.” 

The Portland Association of Teachers represents more than 4,500 educators in the Portland Public School system. Thiel said 98% of its members are already vaccinated.

Under Gov. Kate Brown's statewide mask mandate, students and staff will also be required to wear masks in all PPS and administrative buildings.

PPS is Oregon's largest K-12 school district.

We reached out to other school districts around the state and asked if they will also require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, here's what they said: 

Beaverton School District: Nothing to announce at this time. Did not confirm whether conversations were ongoing. 

Lake Oswego School District: Did not respond to our inquiry. 

Reynolds School District: Currently in negotiations with teacher and support staff groups around the return to school. Proof of vaccination not required at this time, although all staff are highly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Salem-Keizer Public Schools: No conversations regarding a vaccine requirement at this time but the district is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. 

Tigard-Tualatin School District: Conversations with classified and licensed associations are ongoing and hope to have final plans within next ten days.