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Corvallis superintendent looks into requiring COVID vaccine for middle and high school students

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Corvallis School District Office 06

The Corvallis School District office.

Corvallis School District Superintendent Ryan Noss is reviewing the possibility of requiring COVID-19 vaccines for all medically eligible 12-18-year-olds to attend school in person.

During the Sept. 23 CSD school board meeting, board members agreed to support Noss in his investigation and review of possibly implementing a vaccine requirement for middle and high school students. All board members agreed that vaccinations are a key part of keeping schools open, and that exemptions would be available for the COVID vaccine just like they are for the other vaccines students need to attend public schools in Oregon.

“This comes from a priority of keeping our schools open and recognizing that our kids have sacrificed a great deal during the pandemic,” Noss said. “Understanding that is a key component in whatever decision will be made about this.”

Students who do not wish to comply with the vaccine mandate, or qualify for an exemption, can attend Corvallis Online as an alternative.

What Noss is looking for in his review are the policies related to general vaccination requirements, and how an additional COVID vaccine requirement may be similar or different to others such as polio, measles, tetanus and more. The Oregon Department of Education and local health authorities are just a few of many groups he is consulting with on this decision.

“My goal is to make this as simple and straightforward as possible,” he said.

There have been 33 positive COVID cases in the district since school started on Sept. 8, according to the CSD website’s health & safety dashboard.

“The more students in our schools that are vaccinated, the more ease our parents will feel about sending their child there and the more ease staff will feel about being there,” said board member Sarah Finger McDonald at the meeting.

Board member Luhui Whitebear emphasized that she wants to remind the community that there are exemptions available if needed.

“It’s not like this is unheard of in schools,” Whitebear said. “There are exemption laws as well that families can already access.”

Board member Shauna Tominey brought up how communities of color have been more significantly impacted by the pandemic than others, and how the board will prioritize making sure all families have access to accurate information about the vaccine from health professionals they trust.

Noss will provide an update on his review at the Oct. 14 school board meeting.

Corvallis High School had a vaccination clinic scheduled for 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Wednesday and a similar clinic is scheduled for Oct. 20. Crescent Valley High School is having a vaccination clinic on Thursday and Oct. 21 from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Board member Vince Adams said this vaccine requirement could potentially lead to more parents educating themselves on how the vaccine works, leading to a higher vaccination rate in the county.

“I think there may be secondary effects and this could be a powerful move to get the vaccination rate up in our community,” Adams said.

Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_. 

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