PORTLAND, Ore. — Some students expressed frustration over the decision by Portland Public Schools (PPS) to delay a vote on a COVID vaccine mandate for students during a virtual board meeting Tuesday night.
PPS board members were supposed to vote on the mandate during Tuesday's meeting, but last week, the board announced they'd be recommending a six-month delay on the vote instead. On Friday, PPS Chief of Staff Jonathan Garcia cited falling COVID-19 cases and increasing vaccination rates as reasons for the delay.
During Tuesday's meeting, PPS Vice Chair Andrew Scott said the board is following public health guidelines.
"Our public health agencies are not recommending a mandate at this time," he said. "It's not that I want to pump it over to them, but from the beginning we’ve said we’re going to follow public health guidelines and I think we have done that throughout the pandemic."
Some students expressed frustration about the board's decision during Tuesday's meeting. Among them was Xander Levine, who told board members they shouldn't be afraid to act.
"You really want to wait until the end of May to start talking about this again? You want to delay this through cold and flu season and leave it up for discussion at the end of the school year?" Levine asked. "Bringing this up for debate again in May, with less than a month of school, will accomplish nothing. In my opinion, it's simply a foolish idea. The damage would have already been done by then. You need to act now. You can't be scared of acting."
Student representative Jackson Weinberg said some students don't feel safe at school and the board should take that seriously.
"The data that I’ve seen from students, and talking with students, I feel like there's a difference between being safe and feeling safe when going to school," Weinberg said. "So while we all think students are safe going to school right now, there are students who don't feel safe going to school. And we need to take that seriously. So if we're not going forward with this vaccine mandate, then we have to go forward with other mitigation strategies."