PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Board members with Portland Public Schools are currently considering whether to implement a vaccine requirement for eligible students in the district — and the impact such a mandate may cause.
School board members heard from medical experts — including a pediatric chief of emergency medicine at a children’s hospital in Washington, D.C. — who were highly supportive of a vaccine mandate for children ages 12 and up.
Some board members say they support a mandate to help lower the risk of COVID-19 cases in schools and possible exposure that’s been forcing hundreds of students to quarantine. If a mandate is eventually passed, it’s likely to be phased in, beginning with student athletes and those in extracurricular activities like theater or band.
“Is it reasonable to adopt an incremental approach that looks at extracurricular, then 12 and up and then, with approval, perhaps younger students?” PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerroro asked.
Any potential vaccine mandate would include medical and religious exemptions. Public hearings and community forums would be carried out before the school board could vote on the topic. While a vote is not yet scheduled, the discussion is moving forward: the board is looking at other city school districts like L.A. and San Diego where vaccines are now required for eligible students.
Around the region
Schools around the region have been already been struggling with the spread of COVID-19 amongst students and staff — despite only being back in classrooms for several weeks.
Hundreds of students at Reynolds Middle School were possibly exposed to COVID-19 last week. A school spokesperson said a person who later tested positive was in the cafeteria and exposed 200 of the school’s 1,000 students. The students were instructed to stay home and switch to online learning for Thursday and Friday before returning to school on Monday.
Earlier in the week, about 1,000 students and staff at Reynolds High School were told to quarantine. They returned to class in person on Monday as well.
Shortly before the Reynolds outbreak, fifteen classes in the Beaverton School District were quarantined due to COVID exposure.