Yelm, Rainier School Districts Comply With Vaccination Mandate by Deadline

Yelm Grants 120 Exemption Requests, While Rainier Sees 20% of Employees With Exemptions

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Yelm Community Schools and the Rainier School District successfully processed the vaccination status of all of their employees by the state’s Oct. 18 deadline for all employees to be vaccinated.

During the process, employees had the option of filing a religious or medical exemption request in lieu of a vaccination card.

Yelm Community Schools Superintendent Brian Wharton said the district processed 828 people, a number that includes in-season coaches, but excludes out-of-season coaches and most substitutes.

“Substitutes work in different districts,” Wharton said. “We processed some substitutes that work only with us but others we have not yet.”

The district has achieved an 85.5% vaccination rate, with 120 exemption requests processed. The district is still in the process of meeting with every employee with an exemption to see how that will affect the specific requirements of their jobs, Wharton said.

No one that resigned since the mandate was announced has mentioned the mandate as a reason for their resignation, Wharton said, though two to three resignations in the last month were unexpected.

Religious exemptions were the most common request made, Wharton said.

“We worked really hard with our association presidents and we got incredible cooperation from our staff,” Wharton said. “Our (human resources) director and I read every request for exemption.”

He said there is some additional effort needed by himself and the district to follow up with some of the folks who had requested the exemption form.

“We think that the vaccination percentage will grow as we process new employees,” Wharton said. “Our most recent hires, the percentage of vaccinated folks is pretty high compared to requests for exemption. So we think that that number will be over 86% or higher here very shortly.”

Byron Bahr, superintendent of Rainier School District, said the response rate of his staff came in at 100%, with 80 percent of the district’s employees proving their vaccinations. The remaining 20% filed requests for exemption primarily on religious grounds.

No one ended up leaving their post because of the mandate, Bahr said.

“Fortunately, I have an awesome staff here in the district office, as well as the building principals and their administrative assistants,” Bahr said. “So we all worked together. That’s what Rainier is about, working together as a team, everyone pulling their weight. It took extra emails and extra communication on my part, and for the most part everybody responded.”

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