Nearly all Whidbey school staff fully vaccinated, data shows

Of the handful of exemptions granted, most were religious.

More than 90% of employees in all Whidbey school districts are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

With only a handful of exemptions requested, Whidbey school districts’ vaccination rates slightly exceeded that of statewide school district employees, which was 89.1%. On the island and across the state, most exemptions granted to school employees were religious.

In Oak Harbor School District, 92% of the 1,087 employees, including substitute teachers, contract workers and coaches, were fully vaccinated as of Nov. 9. The district granted six medical exemptions and 84 religious exemptions.

Data from the state office indicated that in Oak Harbor less than 1% of employees failed to obtain either a vaccination or an exemption. District spokesperson Conor Laffey said no full-time employees were terminated for failure to comply with the vaccine mandate.

“Our primary responsibility is to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment for our students,” he said. “We expected that the majority of our staff would meet the vaccination requirement and that there would be some who opted to seek an exemption consistent with the state mandate.”

Laffey added that while vaccinated employees and students are not required to quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID, so long as they do not display any symptoms, exempted employees and unvaccinated students must quarantine after exposure.

In Coupeville School District, state data indicated that 91% of the 140 employees were fully vaccinated. Coupeville Superintendent Steve King said 10 employees received religious exemptions and two received medical exemptions.

The state office reported that no Coupeville employees failed to obtain either a vaccination or an exemption.

“We are pleased that everyone in our district followed the mandate of getting vaccinated or going through the exemption process and we did not have to lose any of our valuable employees,” King said.

Regarding what protocols were enacted for unvaccinated staff, King said, “Accommodations were worked out individually with each employee who received an exemption.”

South Whidbey School District had the highest vaccination rate on the island, with 96% of its 225 employees, including seasonal coaches, fully vaccinated. State data showed that 4% of employees in the district obtained religious exemptions, and 1% obtained medical exemptions.

South Whidbey Communications Director Kristina Aquino Macarro said the school required medical exemptions to be completed by a healthcare or rehabilitation professional, and religious exemptions were granted only after individual meetings with each employee who requested one.

South Whidbey School District employees with approved exemptions must be tested weekly for COVID-19 and cannot remove their masks unless they are alone, including to eat.

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