DOE poised to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for high school student athletes


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Public high school students could soon be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to play sports. School officials say the Department of Education (DOE) plans to make the announcement soon. High school football season is set to kickoff on Friday.

The resurging pandemic is already taking a toll on the OIA football season before it starts, as three of the eight games scheduled this weekend have been cancelled due to COVID-19 infections.

Several schools have told KHON2 that the DOE is expected to announce that students athletes will be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to play. A DOE spokeswoman says the policy is being reviewed by the state attorney general.

“Personally, it’s a good idea because we want to make everybody as safe as possible, and participating in extracurricular activities, the contact is so much closer, especially with sports,” said McKinley High School Principal Ron Okamura.

He points out that students are already required to get vaccinated for other infectious diseases to attend school, unless they have a religious or medical exemption. So it makes sense to require student athletes to get the COVID-19 vaccine. And if they get an exemption, he says they should be regularly tested.

“If a student or a coach is not willing to take the vaccination, there’s gonna be some kind of testing that has to be done. And my question comes to everybody: okay, it’s great if we offer testing, but who pays for it?” said Okamura.

He adds that there will likely be parents who oppose the mandate, but he says it’s the right thing to do.

“It’s part of trying to keep the larger majority safe. It is a privilege to participate in athletics, so part of this privilege, yes, you have to follow the guidelines and the rules that are put in front of you,” said Okamura.

Private schools are taking similar precautions. Kamehameha Schools Kapalama sent a letter to parents saying students have to be vaccinated to participate in sports. Parker School on the Big Island is requiring all students and staff to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.

“This is just another way that we want our families to feel safe. We want to extend that ohana feel and for them to really know when they’re students at Parker School, we care about their well being,” said Stephen Dunn, head of school.

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