The Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District presented its vaccination policy last Tuesday.
The policy aims to combat the risks associated with COVID-19 and is in compliance with all federal, state and local laws, the district’s executive director Skyler Archibald said.
“You did an excellent job writing it,” board president Katharine Parker said. “Why it’s important, hopes for the board, and then the expectations and the exemptions are all included. I personally thought it was very thorough and well written.”
In August, the district board voted to require all district employees to be fully vaccinated. The policy was guided by Special Districts of Oregon legal counsel Eileen Eakins, he said, and applies to all employees and volunteers, who will be expected to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. It does not apply to patrons or visitors.
An employee is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccine — Pfizer or Moderna — or one single-dose vaccination. Employees who do not fulfill one of these two requirements will be placed on unpaid leave and their employment will be subject to termination.
The district also reserves the right to require booster vaccinations that come available as time progresses.
Those who are not seeking a religious or medical exemption can submit a weekly negative test to the district, an option available until Dec. 1. After that time, employees must provide proof of vaccination or a valid exemption.
Employees seeking religious or medical exemption may be provided with reasonable accommodations to continue employment, including modified shifts, working areas or remote work. If the reasonable accommodation presents an undue hardship to the district, the next steps may include putting the employee on a leave of absence or potential termination due to vaccine noncompliance.
In August, Archibald estimated about 75% of the park district staff is vaccinated. “I do believe that we have had a few staff who have gotten vaccinated over the last few weeks but we’ll know more about the percentage once we get to the Oct. 18 deadline,” he said Wednesday.
Archibald said he had not heard from any employee that they are leaving employment as a result of the policy.
New employees will have eight weeks from their start date to be fully vaccinated or obtain an approved exemption as an accommodation. Fully vaccinated means having both doses of the two-dose vaccines or one dose of a single vaccine and that the two weeks for inoculation period have lapsed.
“Just because an employee requests an exemption does not mean that we have to a accommodate them,” Archibald said. “But what we are going to do according to the policy is look at their workstation and how their exemption from being vaccinated affects their work and might put others or themselves in danger. And then we pledged to basically follow to accommodate their exemption.”
Staff receives paid time off to receive the vaccine.
Since the start of the pandemic, about 10 park district employees have tested positive for the virus, Archibald said. Many of those were before the availability of the vaccine. Youth programs reopened in early September after a closure due to staff members who tested positive for the coronavirus.
The vaccine requirement comes as the district remains short-staffed in youth programs and maintenance. The district is “near where we should be” in a full aquatics staff, he said. “We’re issuing frequent reminders to share good information and to promote a spirit of truth and positive behavior and modeling that as much as we can.”