(Update: adding comments from OSAA assistant executive director and video)
70 percent of OSAA referees have been vaccinated
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Schools Activities Association is still dealing with referee shortages, a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the vaccine mandate approaches, things could get worse.
"We are at a critical point in time with high school officials," Brad Garrett, the assistant executive director at Oregon Schools Activities Association told NewsChannel 21 Tuesday.
Last year, there were more than 1,500 registered referees with OSAA. This year, that number has dropped about 15 percent, to 1,300.
“The bottom line is we are seeing fewer registrations for this academic year and then we have the October 18 vaccine mandate coming out,” Garrett said.
“We are at a critical point in time with high school officials, because the one thing we keep doing is adding schools and teams, and our population continues to grow, and our official numbers continues to decline," he said. "When you have trend lines going in opposite directions, that’s not a good thing.”
About 70 percent of OSAA's referees are vaccinated, according to Garrett. That's 900 out of the 1,300 registered referees. Garrett said the other 400 referees are citing a medical or religious exemption. The exemptions are being approved by OSAA, but some school districts have notified OSAA that they will not use unvaccinated referees.
Bend-La Pine Schools have yet to make a decision on unvaccinated referees, while the Redmond School district is approving religious and medical exemptions through OSAA.
Dave Williams, athletic director for Bend-La Pine Schools, told NewsChannel 21 no games had been canceled in the school district, but games have been rescheduled at "unusual times."
It's the same in Redmond. No games have been canceled, but games have been rescheduled to meet referee schedules. Some middle school volleyball games have been officiated by coaches, due to the lack of officials.
Garrett said, “There are going to be select nights, where games are going to have to be moved.”
If you're interested in applying to be a referee, you can click here. OSAA referees make $70 per game officiating 4A-6A football games.