With Gov. Jay Inslee’s deadline that all K-12 employees in the state be vaccinated against COVID-19 set for Oct. 18, the Edmonds School District is preparing for the possibility of fewer bus routes and hot meals for students if employees decide to quit rather than get the shot.
Last month, Inslee announced that all public, private and charter school employees must get vaccinated as a condition of their employment. The directive also applied to health care employees and state employees.
In the Edmonds School District, 65% of employees have completed the vaccine verification process or been approved for either a medical or religious exemption, which is allowed under the governor’s order. The district is already experiencing staffing shortages, particularly in transportation and food services, according to district spokesperson Harmony Weinberg.
“All departments could feel it if we don’t get to that 100% (vaccine) verification requirement by the governor,” she said.
Weinberg said district leadership will follow Inslee’s order, and though there is concern about additional shortages, she is optimistic that many who have not yet received their shots will do so within the next three weeks.
One area where Weinberg said the district may suffer is in transportation. By law, the district is required to provide transportation for students enrolled in special education and for students experiencing homelessness. With fewer drivers, some routes for general education students — whom the district is not required to provide transportation for — may be cut, she said. Weinberg called cutting bus routes the “worst-case” scenario.
Additionally, Weinberg said there are fewer food services workers this year. If employees continue to opt out of the vaccine, schools may have to serve fewer hot meals and will have to resort to prepared meals.
”We want the community to understand that we want to transport your kids and we will do what we can, but at the end of the day we have legal requirements and we will follow the law,” she said.
–By Cody Sexton