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Eatonville schools fail to fire unvaccinated employees

Unvaccinated employees are still working in Eatonville schools after the district failed to terminate employees in violation of the governor's vaccine mandate.

EATONVILLE, Wash. — Unvaccinated employees are still working in Eatonville schools after the school district failed to terminate employees in violation of Gov. Jay Inslee's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Eatonville School Board members held a meeting two days after the vaccine deadline to put forth a measure to fire staff that have not been vaccinated. The measure failed, and unvaccinated employees kept their jobs.

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"People come to board meetings very frustrated, but the truth is the statewide mandates are state law or the power of state law," said Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. "Local school boards are not health experts, they are not getting to decide issues of masking and vaccinating because they are not public health officials."   

In August, Inslee announced that all K-12 staff across the state were required by law to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or risk losing their jobs.

There were some religious and medical exemptions, but Reykdal said 90% of educators have complied.

"You don't have to defend this to do the right thing by the law. You can disagree with it personally and you still do it," said Reykdal.

Reykdal said the Eatonville School District has been given the first notice and will need to provide proof that they are complying with the mandate within about two weeks of getting the notice. This means the school district has about one week left to comply.

"We don't think that will be an issue. They will comply, but worst-case scenario is, that's what we mean when we say we suspend apportionment. That means they lose their state funding until the duration of this is settled," he said.

Reykdal said his office has only had to send two letters to different school districts about compliance. The first was sent to a school district that was violating the mask mandate, but that was quickly settled.

 "At some point, we have to check our individual desires with our shared interests, and right now, folks need to step on the side of shared interests," Reykdal said. "It's the right thing to do to protect kids and each other." 

According to Reykdal, his office has given grace to school districts as long as they have a clear plan and timeline to comply with mandates.

The Eatonville School District is working on a response for KING 5, and this story will be updated once a response is received.