The SD43 Board of Education is reviewing implications of a potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all K-12 staff and gathering all information to determine if it is necessary for its employees. While the Board believes that vaccination participation is crucial to ending the pandemic, it is also important to consider the impact of the potential implementation of a mandate and utilize all available data in decision making.
“Vaccination rates in the region are high among those eligible to be vaccinated and a mandate for K-12 staff may not significantly increase the number of immunized adults in the community", said Board Chair Kerri Palmer Isaak. “The board encourages vaccination but also recognizes that most exposures in schools are among those who are not yet eligible to be immunized, such as children under 12. The Board works with, and will continue to work with, Fraser Health and our partner organizations".
The Board continues to consult with the Ministry of Education and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association on this important public health and labour relations matter to better understand provincial direction and the implications of a mandate from an employer perspective. Last week, board chairs met with Fraser Health's Medical Health Officer and the Minister of Education.
The Ministry of Education's K-12 Sector Guidelines for Vaccination Policies, which was released on Friday, October 22, 2021, was reviewed and discussed by the Board during their regular public meeting of Tuesday, October 26, 2021. The document, which was developed by an ad hoc advisory committee comprised of provincial and sector representatives, outlines steps that boards should be taking as they consider this issue, given the complexities of such a decision.
Superintendent Patricia Gartland regularly provides a COVID-19 Update during public meetings of the SD43 Board of Education. “With the health and safety protocols in place, schools remain safe and the best place for children continues to be in class", said Superintendent Gartland. “Transmission tends to be community-based and we are not seeing significant increases in exposures within school populations".
No final decision by the Board has been reached in regarding a vaccine mandate for K-12 staff while the issue remains a matter of intense review and scrutiny. It is imperative that the Board consider the interests of families, students, and staff in making this decision. The health and safety of our school communities is of the utmost importance and there are many factors to balance. Any decision made by the Board will be made with the most accurate information available and will include consideration of all partner groups including parents, unions, and employee groups.