Portland Public Schools delays vaccine mandate vote


Xander Levine

Anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters shut down the Oct. 26 school board meeting. The vaccine mandate vote has been delayed for six months to examine the wisdom of a mandate.

Xander Levine

Tuesday, Nov. 16 was supposed to be the night the Portland Public School (PPS) Board of Education discussed and voted on a vaccine mandate for all students age 12 and up. Now, the vote has been pushed back to at least May 2022.

The board had been meeting virtually since October after anti-mask, anti-vax protesters refused to follow safety protocols at the Oct. 26 meeting. 

On Friday Nov. 12, four days before the planned vote, PPS staff presented data encouraging the board not to act, and instead to delay any vote or action for six months. 

“Given what we’ve learned from our Health Advisory Panel, and an analysis of the latest data and trends in our community, we are now recommending to the school board to delay taking action on a vaccine requirement for at least six months,” Chief of Staff Jonathan Garcia said.

By the time of the Nov. 16 meeting, the board seemed to have already made up their mind when it came time to discuss the mandat. All board members seemed to agree that the delay of vote was the right move, at the right time. 

“Our public health agencies are not recommending a mandate at this time. It’s not that I want to punt 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,” Vice Chair Scott Andrews said.

The meeting made clear, however, that many students disagree with the Board’s decision to push back the vote.

A survey conducted by the PPS District Student Council, and presented to the Board by Student Representative Jackson Weinberg, showed that over 1500 PPS middle and high school students strongly support a vaccine mandate, and urge the Board to implement it as soon as possible.

Board member Amy Kohnstan admitted that she disagreed, expressing that this was one of the first times that’s been the case.

“it’s difficult for me to ever be in a position that is on the other side of the recommendations of our students,” she said. “It’s not really some place I’ve ever been on in any major decision where I’ve sat at this desk.

For the time being, the board has delayed any further discussions for at least six months.