While most complied with statewide mandate, district granted 115 exemptions while placing 37 employees on leave.

COURTESY: UNSPLASH - With a mandate that all K-12 school employees be vaccinated by Oct. 18, Portland area districts reported overwhelming compliance.  Portland Public Schools says only a small fraction of its workforce faces termination due to a vaccine mandate.

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, the school district reported 96% of its employees have been fully vaccinated, with another 1% in progress.

In all, those placed on unpaid leave who face non-disciplinary firing include: five classroom educators, seven paraeducators, 16 custodians, six nutrition staff and three bus drivers.

Statewide, school employees and health care workers had until Oct. 18 to comply with a vaccine mandate. The mandate, announced in August, doesn't allow employees to provide a negative COVID-19 test in lieu of getting vaccinated.

Before the state mandate kicked in, PPS was the first district to require vaccines of its employees.

"We are incredibly pleased and proud that the vast majority of Portland Public Schools employees have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19," PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said. "This is not only a sign of their dedication to keeping students protected, but it signifies a common understanding that vaccination is the best possible protection against this deadly virus."

In September, during discussions about whether to implement a vaccine mandate for students 12 and older, PPS administrators said 95% of the district's workforce was vaccinated, and the majority of those who weren't had requested a religious exemption.

It's unclear exactly how many staffers will face termination by the state's largest school district for lack of compliance, but Tuesday afternoon, PPS reported 96.3% of its 7,427 employees were fully vaccinated, and those who had completed their first dose were given a temporary medical exemption in order to meet the state's Oct. 18 deadline.

The district said 2.4% of its employees reported not being vaccinated, and by the deadline, PPS had granted 102 religious exemptions, out of 140 who applied, while another 13 staffers were approved for medical exemptions, out of 31 who applied.

PPS employees who didn't respond to a district inquiry were primarily those on a leave of absence, inactive substitute teachers, temporary employees or inactive coaches.

In neighboring Beaverton School District, nearly 97% of employees are vaccinated, with another 3% requesting a religious exemption and less than 1% requesting a medical exemption.

While the number of PPS employees who face termination is relatively small, the district is already facing shortages of custodians, bus drivers and paraeducators.

Currently, the district is having to shuffle around and cut bus routes, while arranging alternative transportation options for students and paying the families of others if they can't provide transportation.

The Portland district held virtual listening sessions Tuesday evening, Oct. 19, hearing from students and families as the district considers a vaccine mandate for all students 12 and older.

Note: This story has been updated with more recent data about exemption rates since it was first published.

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