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Eatonville student, graduate weigh in on COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers

A current Eatonville student and Eatonville High School graduate have messages for educators across the state.

EATONVILLE, Wash. — Washington state schools are bracing for more staffing shortages now that the state has reached the deadline for all K-12 employees to fully vaccinate against COVID-19.

Haylie Hetland, a junior at Eatonville High School, is taking online classes this year. She said she decided to do remote courses full-time to protect her family and her brother who has an underlying health condition.

"Most kids that attend the schools out here, are like no, masks don't work. Vaccines, I'm not going to put that in my body,'" Hetland said. "It makes me feel a lot better and my parents feel a lot better that the teachers are vaccinated." 

Some teachers are saying it should be their right to decide what goes into their bodies, and they are willing to lose their jobs to stand up for what they believe in.

"I understand where they're coming from, but we are living in a time where you kind of have to make the decision to get the vaccine," Hetland said. "Soon, everything is going to be requiring the vaccine."  

Skylar Peters graduated from Eatonville High School in 2020. She said she feels awful for the teachers who are making a decision for themselves that will not be received well by everyone.

"It's going to be hate from students and even though teachers are obviously a lot older than all of us, it's still -- it's going to be hard for them," Peters said.

She also explained she does not like the divide that has been created over the vaccine.

"All over a mask and a vaccine, we're really just going to start bullying each other?" she said. "I just really hope these teachers like, find it in themselves that like it's going to be okay," Peters said. "It's your right, so stand up for it."

Some states like California have offered teachers the option to test for COVID-19 each week if they don't want to receive the vaccine.

Peters said she doesn't understand why Washington teachers don't have the same option.

"If the teachers don't want to have it, they should just - until COVID is over, you know - [be] required to wear a mask. You can even wear one of those plastic little screen things over your face, and I don't think it's going to hurt any of the kids," she said.

Hetland said students like herself just want to feel safe.

"Just do it. I'm a fully-vaccinated teen and a student and it would help me feel more comfortable and safe going to school and not risking my life going to school," Hetland said.  "Please get vaccinated so you can keep other students and staff."

Peters said the right to choose should not be overlooked or taken away.

"I just don't think it needs to be forced on anyone, I just think it is your choice, your body, you know? You can do what you want with it, and no one should tell you any different," she said.