PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After hearing from concerned parents and students, the Portland Public Schools board said it will consult medical and legal experts regarding a potential COVID-19 vaccine requirement for eligible kids.
During the PPS board meeting Wednesday night, several parents and students expressed worries that schools are not able to adequately protect students from getting COVID, even with masks on. Speakers said they’re concerned about overcrowded hallways and classrooms.
“I can’t convey to you the amount of dread I have about going to school and hurting someone I love,” said Lucy Michaud, a student. “I am worried that while I am walking through packed hallways or sitting next to my peer in class, I could catch a disease and spread it to my mother who has asthma and could end up in the hospital.”
Jackson Weinberg, the student representative on the board, asked the board to take a look at requiring students 12 and up to have a COVID vaccine, similar to the vaccine mandate recently adopted by Los Angeles schools.
“I would like to encourage PPS and this board to mandate COVID vaccinations for all students 12 and up,” said Weinberg. “It is our responsibility to ensure our schools are safe and our students and staff are protected.”
The board said it will bring in medical and legal experts to examine the proposal during a work session that will likely be held next week.
“We want to keep students in school safely this is just one more part of our mitigation strategy to keep students and staff safe and in school five days a week,” said Portland School Board Director Eilidh Lowery.
It’s likely that medical and religious exemptions would be available if PPS adopts a vaccine mandate for students who are old enough. Officials would also need to decide whether a vaccine requirement would be for students 12 and up or just for those who are at least 16 years old.
Brown’s office said it would “likely need further action from the FDA or CDC before we would consider any such requirements — the Pfizer vaccine has not received full approval for children under 16 and children under 12 are not eligible at all.”
Dr. Dean Sidelinger with the Oregon Health Authority said, “We haven’t chosen to go that route because we are making pretty good progress vaccinating students who are eligible.”
Last month, PPS became the first school district in Oregon to require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID. PPS employees were required to submit proof of full vaccination by Aug. 31 unless they had an approved exemption. Those who were not vaccinated by the deadline, or who had special exemptions, were to undergo weekly testing.
Governor Kate Brown mandated all teachers, educators, support staff and volunteers at K-12 schools throughout Oregon be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval, whichever is later. Private and charter school employees must also be vaccinated under Brown’s mandate.