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Several Westminster Public Schools teachers will be put on unpaid leave, despite vaccine exemptions

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Posted at 7:30 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 21:30:01-04

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Several unvaccinated Westminster Public Schools teachers are getting ready to be put on administrative leave without pay as the district's vaccine mandate deadline approaches next week.

Despite having exemptions approved by the district, 17 teachers will be put on unpaid leave unless they decide to get a coronavirus vaccine by Oct. 15, WPS spokesperson Stephen Saunders confirmed Wednesday.

Thirteen other district employees also had vaccine exemptions approved.

A WPS teacher, who asked to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation, said a district official told her she "can go to the board and apply for a nighttime custodial position or that I could take an unpaid leave."

Another teacher said "they told me that it would be an undue hardship if they would have to find a substitute for me."

Saunders explained it's because of coronavirus protocols.

"If you are unvaccinated and you are in front of students and you are exposed, you must quarantine for 10 days, and for us that's an undue hardship," Saunders said.

It's a hardship that already exists at WPS, as teacher shortages and difficulty finding substitutes is impacting most district's across the state.

Come Oct. 15, that hardship could deepen at WPS, which Saunders says the district would be able to handle.

"If they choose not to get vaccinated, they can not be in front of students because that's not good for the district," Saunders said. "That is certainly not good for the students, and I think the vast majority of parents agree with that."

The teachers Denver7 spoke with believe the move to put them on administrative leave is distasteful, considering the effort and risks they took during the height of the pandemic when the district decided to keep schools open for in-person instruction.

"We stayed open, and I wore an N95 mask and face goggles to be able to stay open because that was our district's mandate," one teacher said.

Another teacher said they "offered masking, social distancing, temperature checks, symptom tracking and weekly testing," but was told "those were not appropriate" accommodations.

According to Saunders, the leave would last until at least the end of the school year before the district evaluates the situation again.