WESTMINSTER, Colo. — A group of unvaccinated Westminster Public Schools teachers and employees who received a vaccine exemption thought they would be allowed to serve the district in their current roles, but that's not the case according to the district.
WPS says teachers can't be in the classroom with students, despite their exemptions, because of the undue hardship that it would cause the district if they have to quarantine due to exposure to the virus.
"If they choose not to get vaccinated, they cannot be in front of students because that's not good for the district, that is certainly not good for the students and I think the vast majority of parents agree with that," WPS spokesman Stephen Saunders said Wednesday."
The deadline to get a COVID-19 vaccine for Westminster Public Schools employees is next Friday.
A WPS teacher, who wants to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation, said she will "be out of the classroom as of Oct. 15. I was told I was not able to communicate with anyone in the building, anyone in the district, including students, staff, parents."
But at this point, some WPS teachers have accepted that reality.
"I understand that they don't want the unvaccinated staff at this district anymore. I get that," the anonymous teacher said.
The next challenge for them is getting another job, which, at first glance, shouldn't be too difficult when considering there is a statewide teacher shortage. Most teachers with a clean past won't have difficulty finding work in another district. Unlike WPS, almost every other district in the Metro is offering accommodations for vaccine exempt employees, and several districts don't have a vaccine mandate for staff.
But WPS teachers said landing their next teaching job isn't going to be easy.
"We're being denied letters of recommendation from our administrators because the human resources department is telling administration not to give them to us," an anonymous WPS teacher told Denver 7.
Another teacher, who also asked to remain anonymous, said the situation is "very disheartening."
"Without letters of recommendations, reference checks, all of those things, I can't get another job because it's like I was never a teacher," the teacher said.
According to Saunders, the district instructed WPS principals not to write letters of recommendations for teachers under contract because that's part of standard policy. The only way one would be given out is if those teachers or staff quit.
"Well, they probably don't have too many choices other than to resign and go find another teaching position, if that's what they choose to do," Saunders said.
Some parents will be relieved that unvaccinated teachers will be gone from the district, but others like Juana Davila Herrera think about their special needs child, whose teacher of several years will no longer be there to help.
"If he's hot, if he's hungry, if he's thirsty, they know everything because they've been with him for so many years," Davila-Herrera said. "How am I going to be able to help my son a little more without these teachers in my son's life?"
WPS had 17 exempt teachers on Wednesday. One teacher has chosen to get vaccinated since then to keep their job. Thirteen other staff members were also granted exemptions.
It's a tough and rare stand to take, but the district is confident the move will protect students and staff.