Some dreaded vaccine mandates. So are schools really losing teachers?

Los Angeles USD and Seattle report that nearly all of their educators have complied with vaccine mandates
By: | October 22, 2021
(AdobeStock)(AdobeStock)

Employee vaccine mandates have not—as some had feared—driven teachers to quit classrooms in droves even as ongoing COVID infections continue to cause staff shortages.

Shepherd Public Schools and Three Rivers Community Schools in Michigan moved their high schools and middle schools to distance learning this week due to a shortage of teachers and support staff. In Montana, staffing shortages also forced the Darby School District and the Glasgow School District to go remote for the week.

Los Angeles USD, one of the districts to require vaccinations, reported on Oct. 15 that 97% of its administrators, 97% of classroom teachers and 95% of administrative assistants, plant managers and cafeteria managers had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The district has set a deadline of Nov. 15 for employees to be fully vaccinated or face potential termination.

Washington’s school employee vaccine mandate has also not had a major staffing impact, at least according to some of the state’s largest districts. Seattle Public Schools this week reported that 99% of its nearly 7,300 full-time employees had complied with state requirements.

That includes more than 99% of all teachers, 100% of principals and 99% of management staff, the district says. A few employees have taken to complete their vaccination process while 205 employees were granted medical or religious exemptions.

“The vaccination rates of our employees reflect the tremendous dedication of our teachers and staff to student and community health and well-being,” Interim Superintendent Brent Jones said.

In nearby Tacoma Public Schools, nearly 98% of the district’s 4,388 are in compliance, including about 300 who received exemptions, Executive Director of Communications Dan Voelpel says.

The district has terminated 94 individuals for non-compliance but only six of those were full-time employees. About half of those people were substitute teachers who had not worked for the district this school year, Voelpel says.

In Oregon, which also has a state mandate, the Klamath County School District reports that as of Oct. 18 98% of its employees were fully vaccinated or had been granted medical or religious exemptions.

“Our employees take their jobs seriously. They take the education of our community’s youth seriously,” Superintendent Glen Szymoniak said on the district’s website. “This dedication helped ensure that students would not see a disruption in services and programs.”

Sixteen individuals were put on unpaid administrative leave until they are fully vaccinated but administrators say there will be no impact on students because those employees work a variety of jobs in different buildings.

“The district does not anticipate any staffing issues due to the vaccine mandate,” Szymoniak said. “However, like other districts, we are struggling to fill some positions, including bus drivers, and have worked to find solutions.”

The Othello School District in rural Oregon said only two employees have not been vaccinated or granted a medical or religious exception. This means there will be no disruption to district operations due to “a very contentious mandate,” Superintendent Pete Perez said on the district’s website.

“We’re pleased with these numbers. They give us a good feeling that we have a high level of protection among our employees,” Perez said. “Our district is excited about the work that is ongoing right now to improve student outcomes and to move beyond pandemic education.”

In Virginia, the Richmond City School District reported that nearly 90% of its staff had provided proof of vaccination or received an exemption. Non-compliant employees will be docked one day of pay.