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Southern Oregon schools largely come into compliance with Oregon's vaccine mandate

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But high compliance rates don't necessarily translate into high vaccination rates.

Most of the schools had up to 98% compliance with the mandate, but that doesn’t mean that 98% of the staff are now vaccinated. In districts such as Klamath County, Medford and Grants Pass, 20% or more of staff have requested medical or religious exemptions.

The Grants Pass School District is requiring staff who aren't vaccinated to wear an N95 mask or get tested weekly.

In Medford, school district superintendent Brad Earl says that even though testing is not mandatory there, they strongly encourage it.

“What we’re saying is that if you're not going to be vaccinated you sign up for testing,” says Earl. “If an individual says “I don't want to do either” then they end up in a meeting in HR and they kind of explain their individual situation and sometimes on a case by case basis were able to and willing to make some sort of an arrangement.”

The mandate has been effective in encouraging vaccines in at least the Klamath County School District. 76 employees there began their vaccine series after September 1st, according to the school district’s Marcia Schlottmann. That increased the vaccination rate among district staff from 63% to 72%.

Officials at Klamath County schools say there are 16 employees on unpaid leave pending full vaccination. While one of these employees is a teacher, the majority are bus drivers, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals or secretarial staff.

In Grants Pass, seven employees are reported to have resigned over the COVID vaccine mandate.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.