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Family at odds with North Thurston schools over COVID-19 quarantine policy

The district's policy is similar to many other districts requiring unvaccinated students to quarantine after possible COVID-19 exposure, regardless of symptoms.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — An Olympia mother said her daughter is being treated differently at school because of the girl’s vaccination status.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated students are held to different quarantine standards in North Thurston schools, which is what health officials say is safest. 

Unvaccinated students must quarantine if they've had close contact with someone with COVID-19. Vaccinated students are allowed to remain on campus, although they are advised to get tested. 

“It’s not fair,” said Maggie May Willis, whose 14-year-old daughter Bella chose not to get the vaccine because she did not think she needed it.

On Tuesday, Bella was told she had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. She was told to quarantine at home for 14 days because she is not vaccinated. 

Willis said her daughter should not have to miss school, especially since she is asymptomatic. However, district policy requires unvaccinated students to quarantine when they've had a potential contact, whether or not they're symptomatic. 

The policy is based on guidance from the Thurston County Health Department, according to North Thurston Public Schools district spokesperson Courtney Schrieve.

She said North Thurston, along with most school districts in the state, are following the guidance of health officials.

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“If a student has not been vaccinated, they may be carrying the virus and be more contagious,” said Schrieve.

“We don’t want kids to miss school, but we also have to follow the guidelines and ensure other parents that we are doing everything we can to keep their child safe,” said Schrieve.

Schrieve said students who are sent home are given excused absences and will not be punished for missing assignments. They can also contact their teachers to keep up on lessons, said Schrieve.

Willis said the policy will not likely encourage Bella to get vaccinated.

She said, after the quarantine, if Bella is sent home again because of another potential exposure, the family will likely enroll her in an online school. 

Willis said the policy is another way for the state to make people get vaccinated against their will.

“Sure we have this freedom to choose, but do we?” said Willis. “We can’t participate in anything, there are people whose jobs are at stake… they don’t get it because they want to, they get it because they have to.”

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