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News >  Higher education

Community Colleges of Spokane announce COVID-19 vaccine requirement with exemptions allowed

UPDATED: Wed., July 28, 2021

Syringes are filled with .05 ml of Moderna vaccine on April 2 at the Spokane Arena.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Syringes are filled with .05 ml of Moderna vaccine on April 2 at the Spokane Arena. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Community Colleges of Spokane will require students and staff to attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status for the upcoming fall quarter.

The decision marks a departure from April, when a spokesperson for Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College stated the colleges had no plans to institute a vaccine requirement.

Those plans changed, however, when Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order late last month outlining options for higher education institutions seeking to return to in-person classes and campus activities.

“The way we looked at it and interpreted the rules is the logistical application of both options for us was virtually the same,” said Kevin Brockbank, president of Spokane Community College, “and so for us, to be a fully vaccinated campus, that opens up some freedoms for us as an institution to have no masks for vaccinated folks as well as reducing the distancing and getting back to normal instructional practices that frankly enhances the learning environment.”

CCS students and employees will be asked to submit a one-time attestation form through ctcLink. The community colleges are allowing for medical, religious and philosophical exemptions.

Nonvaccinated students and employees, along with any visitors on campus, will have to wear masks at all times.

“Our goal is to have everybody in the system by the start of classes on Sept. 20, and we can work with individuals on a case-by-case basis who don’t yet have that filled out,” Brockbank said. “Students, faculty and staff can all change their status at any time if they become vaccinated later or things change.”

CCS joins the ranks of other institutions across the state that have vaccine requirements, including Washington State University, Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University.

Of those three, only WSU is offering a philosophical exemption alongside medical and religious exemptions. The University of Washington is also allowing philosophical exemptions.

“The thought process in offering that was it was part of the governor’s higher education proclamation, so we followed that language as an acceptable exemption,” Brockbank said. “There’s not a list of philosophical exemptions that are allowed or not allowed, so we are letting individuals make the claim for philosophical exemption and registering it in the system that way.”

Asked whether the colleges will review exemption requests for approval, Brockbank said individuals only need to attest to their status.

“We do reserve the right to go back and ask for further clarification later, but that’s not going to be the process for every exemption,” he said.

Brockbank said college administrators are still determining how they will enforce the requirement if an individual doesn’t register.

“There’s a variety of ways we can go with; student holds on an account or notifications and messaging with students,” he said. “So we have a little bit of final work to do to work through a couple of those scenarios where we have a student who’s not filling out the attestation for an exemption or the vaccine.”

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