To Mandate or Not to Mandate?

Discourse about a vaccine mandate is heating up within Portland Public Schools. Zoe Toperosky gives us a refresher on updated policies for school communities, a recap of the recent PPS board meeting, and a conversation with Principal Hristic.


Zoe Toperosky, Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt our society, and new policies and mandates evolve with the virus. One of the newest ones for Oregon was implemented by the Oregon Health Authority. This policy requires teachers, administrative staff, cleaning staff, coaches, school bus drivers, family volunteers, and substitute teachers, etc. to provide proof of vaccine against COVID-19 to enter the school campus.

The policy applies to visitors coming before, during, and after school. However, students are not required to provide proof of vaccination at any time due to the district not yet requiring students to be vaccinated.

“The rule is designed to protect children from exposure to the novel coronavirus while they are in school but not yet eligible for vaccination,” PPS Media Relations said in an email.

Portland Public Schools has shared that this will apply to long term visitors only. Short term (up to 15 minutes or fewer) do not need to show their vaccination records.

If a person refuses to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test they will be asked to leave campus and reschedule their business to an online setting. If there is still a problem, then the decision will be up to the principal of that school to decide what the best course of action will be.

Although students will not be asked to show proof of vaccination, if you are at a sporting event and you are not from the school of the home team you will need to be vaccinated to be at the game.

“At this point, the understanding and expectation is that the students from the visiting school are basically treated like adults,” IBW’s Principal Filip Hristic said. “In terms of needing to show proof of vaccination.”

When you’re dealing with a topic as broad as the COVID vaccine there are many layers and opinions to the topic. One prominent issue is the debate on whether or not students 12 and older should be required to be vaccinated to come to school.

There are already vaccines that students are required to have to come to school such as; DTaT, Polio, Varicella, MMR, Hepatitis A and B, and Tdap. Adding the COVID-19 vaccine wouldn’t be unheard of. “We already have examples where certain vaccinations are required for students to attend school,” said Hristic, “so I’m in favor of adding the COVID vaccines to that list.”

The most recent example of controversy surrounding the vaccine mandate was at the PPS board meeting on October 26, 2021. People from all over the state — not just Portland residents — were protesting at this indoor meeting at PPS headquarters, refusing to wear masks and disrupting the proceedings.

The group was protesting the idea of requiring students to be vaccinated in order to attend school. Their attempts to make the members of the board hear their voices was cut short due to  many blatantly violating the mask mandate at the event. The board ultimately decided to move the meeting online and leave the chaos that was unfolding in the building.

After many of the people left to have a productive meeting online, the protestors stayed and continued to demonstrate while ignoring reminders of state mandates — indoor masking mandate — and disregarding the health of themselves and those around them.

Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero sent out a press release to the public the following day, mentioning the racist language directed towards students and attendees by the protestors. “Last night our students and staff were also confronted with the use of offensive racist language […] Hate speech is not tolerated in our community,” Guerrero said in the press release. “This incident is an affront to our core values of racial equity and social justice, respect, honesty and integrity.”

The initial vote to see if students 12 and up should be required to be vaccinated was supposed to be November 2, 2021 but has been postponed till November 16, 2021 at the earliest. This date could continue to change over the next few weeks. Updates on the most current information is available on the PPS website at

At IBW, Hristic estimates that 90-95% of our student body are already vaccinated, although a rough estimate, these numbers are based on the information the school receives after a positive COVID test from the families affected. If the family can prove that their student is fully vaccinated the student does not need to quarantine. Hristic said that out of everyone they have had to contact, 90-95% of the families have been able to prove their students’ vaccination status.

For the past year and a half things have been changing almost everyday. There will continue to be new information, mandates, and laws about the vaccine and it’s important to know that these decisions are made for everyone’s best interest and health.

“I think our way out of this pandemic is to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” said Hristic.