COVID-19 vaccine required for student-athletes, athletic staff, and volunteers

The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) announced that all student-athletes, athletic staff, and volunteers must be fully vaccinated to participate in school-sanctioned athletic events during the 2021-22 school year. 

In response, the department also delayed this year’s fall athletic season, giving students and adults the opportunity to get vaccinated before the deadline, Sept. 24, 2021. Fall sports resumed Sept. 27. 

Participants may request religious or medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine with the proper documents present. In event the exemption is approved, participants are required to take two COVID-19 tests weekly.

This school year, Waipahu High School’s athletic department saw a decrease in student athletes.

Waipahu High School Athletic Director Stacie Nii says, “I think now with the vaccination, you have a lot of students that are choosing not to get vaccinated, which is their choice. Not getting vaccinated now puts them in a little different predicament where they have to apply for a waiver, get approved, and get tested twice a week.” 

Timing presented a problem for some potential student-athletes. “I was going to play softball, but I didn’t take my vaccination by the time they said they had tryouts,” says Meleisha Ramento-Pacariem (’22). COVID mandates related to travel, rather than athletics, ultimately pushed Rament0-Pacariem to get vaccinated in order to easily visit family members on the mainland.

Other potential student-athletes deferred to their parents’ concerns. Leimomi Velles-Lumoya (’22) says, “I was going to take wrestling, but my mom didn’t want me to,” due to the close contact involved in the sport and the risk of contracting COVID even while vaccinated. “I still wanted to do wrestling, but I’ll go along with what she says.”

Cheerleader Kate Marianne Rebollo (‘24) says that while some students may feel that the requirement is unfair, it is “also good because it can prevent the spread of COVID-19, and [we are able to] play safe.”

While it is uncertain whether this regulation will continue into future school years, Nii says, “I think it will be here for years to come.”