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Seattle Public Schools to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all employees

A vaccine mandate is still subject to bargaining with the Seattle Education Association, which represents teachers in the SPS district.

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is mandating vaccines for all employees, according to an email sent by Interim Superintended Brent Jones to SPS staff Thursday night. 

According to a district spokesperson, this applies to all 12,887 SPS workers, including those who are represented by unions.

SPS staff will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 as a "condition of employment," according to the email. The mandate includes limited exemptions for documented medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs.

"Parents and caregivers are entrusting their children’s lives to us. Half of our students are not yet eligible for vaccination, and likely won’t be for many months. We must do everything within our power to support healthy and safe schools. It is our obligation," Jones wrote. 

Jones went on to encourage all "labor partners" to join the district in mandating vaccines for all staff. While the superintendent has the authority to mandate vaccines, it is still subject to bargaining with the various unions like Seattle Education Association, which represents teachers in the SPS district. 

The announcement comes the same day Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal called on Gov. Jay Inslee to pass down a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all public school employees.

Inslee announced a mandate on Aug. 9 for most state and health care employees, but K-12 employees were not covered in the proclamation. 

A spokesperson for Inslee's office said he was not expecting to expand the mandate this week, but said, "We will continue to look at policies to increase the vaccination rate."