BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Earlier this month Kern Community College District mandated that all students and staff receive their first vaccine dose by September 7th or have an exemption whether it's medical or religious.
But with that came concern that enrollment rates would drop, and confusion about those exemptions.
Director of Risk Assessment & Management Joe Grubbs told 23ABC that enrollment rates had not fallen in fact un-enrollment was 5% last year and this year even less at 4.5%.
However, for some, there is still some confusion about what qualifies as a religious exemption.
“A sincerely held religious belief is what the courts have indicated is a religious exemption. So, something in the person's personal beliefs that would prevent them from getting vaccinated,” said Grubbs
Employees and students are offered this religious exemption because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination, and the first amendment of the US which guarantees freedom of religion.
Grubbs said that neither the medical exemption form nor the religion form is complicated.
“A student or employee will select the exemption form which they are requesting they can fill it out handwritten or online,” said Grubbs.
Grubbs said at this time the medical exemption does require a statement from the doctor, but the religious exemption does not require a statement from the clergy.
Grubbs said he understands there is some fear that some will abuse the religious exemption but that they are taking their students and staff at their word.
“We’re not medical providers or doctors were also not clergymen, so we take them at their word,” said Grubbs.
Grubbs is encouraging all students and staff to keep up the momentum and get their vaccines or exemptions as soon as possible.
“September 7th was a date that we established to get people moving in that direction. It wasn't like we went out and started kicking people out,” said Grubbs.
However, Grubbs reiterated that November 1st is a hard deadline to have all vaccines and exemptions fully completed.
“You know our intent is certainly not to remove anybody staff or students our intent is to find ways that we can help them with any needs that they may have,” said Grubbs.
If students and staff do not comply with the vaccine mandate, they will be forced to submit weekly COVID testing.
Grubbs said KCCDs priority is to give their staff and student options whether that be remotely or on campus with masks on.