On Monday, parent James Collins got an email in his inbox.
“We just didn’t expect it, it was wholly a surprise to us,” he said.
It was a message from his twin daughters’ Kindergarten teacher, Kelly Lundy, at Ensworth Elementary School in Bend.
“There are no long-term safety studies on it, and the fact that we’re being coerced into getting something is illegal,” Lundy told Central Oregon Daily News on Tuesday.
Monday was the state’s deadline for K-12 school employees to get vaccinated, file an exemption or risk losing their job.
Bend-La Pine Schools was unable to disclose how many teachers were among the district’s 15 staff members placed on leave.
Lundy believes the date of the deadline made her departure especially hard on students.
“I had built relationships with these students, and we’re just getting into having a strong relationship for the school year,” she said. “And the fact that I had to leave after a month and a half of being with them just doesn’t sit right or feel right, and it’s not right.”
Collins felt that leaving the classroom without any warning was a mistake, as teachers found out about the vaccination deadline in mid-August.
“One of the most important things with education at all levels, but especially at the younger levels, is being able to connect with the children,” Collins said. “So if she wasn’t going to get the shot, then she shouldn’t have started the year in a Kindergarten class.”
“I didn’t know how everything would unfold,” Lundy said. “And also I have never done this before, so I didn’t necessarily know how to go about it. I did the best I could with what I had.
“I feel like if they had known sooner there just would’ve been this impending doom.”
Collins received no direct communication from the school about the teacher’s absence.
Bend-La Pine Schools Assistant Director of Communications Alandra Johnson said they’re not allowed to disclose that information to parents, as it would violate the staff members’ medical privacy.
Johnson says the 15 staff members in the district who are currently on unpaid leave will maintain that status until Feb. 20 of 2022.
She said in an email to Central Oregon Daily News Tuesday:
“If either 1) the law has changed such that documentation is no longer required, or 2) employees have submitted the required documentation, then they will notify staff that they are approved to return to work in the 2022-23 school year.
“If documentation is still required by law, and staff have not submitted the required documentation, they shall remain on Unpaid Leave of Absence status and BLS will undertake the process for permanent separation from employment.”
Lundy said she’s not sure right now what her next steps will be.
“I don’t feel the school district gave sufficient options, because for the last year I’ve worked for them without anything, and as of this date of October 18th I would’ve had to provide something,” she said.
“They didn’t want to have any conversations about any other option besides submitting a religious or medical exemption or submitting a vaccination card.”