With no provincial health order mandating teachers and school district employees to be vaccinated the SD8 Board of Education is slated to make a decision on its own.
The trustees of School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) are tasked with the responsibility to establish the policy, but it must be voted on in a closed (in camera) meeting of the board, noted SD8 superintendent of schools, Trish Smillie.
She said that in the absence of a provincial health order, vaccine mandates remain an employer’s decision, so SD8 is currently “working through the process” to develop a policy. No timeline has been given when that policy will be delivered.
The SD8 board will be using “a set of guiding principles developed by the British Columbia Public School Employer’s Association (BCPSEA) to understand the scope of this issue in our district and determine how a vaccine mandate might impact in-person learning,” she said.
“Our board will be carefully considering the framework and the advice of our local health authority.”
Some employers — such as provincial and municipal government — have handed down employee vaccine mandates as people who have been working remotely return to work.
Smillie said the idea of the board of education is to deliver in-person learning. As a result, the province’s public kindergarten to Grade 12 workers returned to work in June of 2020 “as boards and the Ministry of Education prioritized in-person learning for students.”
• The provincial vaccine policy guideline can be found here: guidelines.
The school district has not developed its own policy regarding vaccinations for adults working for the school district.
“We follow the advice and direction of our Public Health Authority in the development of policies and protocols related to communicable disease,” said Smillie. “At this time, the Board of Education is working through the process.”
And there has been no consensus internally — from teachers or principals — for mandatory vaccinations.
“We have received communication from staff and the public both for and against a mandatory vaccine policy,” said Smillie.
Although she could not speculate on how many teachers were vaccinated in SD8, a B.C. Teachers’ Federation survey released late last month revealed that nearly all of the province’s 45,000 teachers are fully vaccinated.
The union member survey claimed that 94 per cent of teachers have had two needles, with one per cent having one needle with the intention of a second.
Only two per cent of the people who replied to the survey were unvaccinated, while the same number refused to answer the question.
Despite the high numbers of vaccinations, 82 per cent of teachers supported a province-wide vaccine mandate for all school district employees.
Around 6,200 teachers completed the union’s survey.
Guidelines have been developed to support school boards in their decisions on implementing vaccine requirements for their employees, according to the Ministry of Education.
The guidelines were created by the Ministry of Education and its partners including the BC School Trustees Association, the BC Teachers' Federation, CUPE, the First Nations Education Steering Committee, the Federation of Independent Schools Association, and school district leadership associations, in consultation with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer.
The guidelines were expected to “help school boards to make an informed decision on a mandatory vaccination policy.”
These guidelines were based on the existing K-12 health and safety measures including: daily health checks; hand washing; staying home when sick; masks for all students and staff; and improved ventilation systems.
• online: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/download/8944B0CE48D644D1B46951369F458B86
Non staff vaccinations
Despite some movement being made on developing a vaccination for children, there has been no discussion of how it would be implemented in the school district.
Smillie said that the Interior Health Authority and the Provincial Health Officer would be responsible for that mandate.
But the double vaccinated mandate handed down for minor sports coaches, assistants and supervisors two weeks ago does not hold for school sports, she added.
The Public Health Order for sports adult and youth outdoor and indoor group and team sports require all coaches and team officials to be fully vaccinated.
There is an exemption for during or after school programs for students of public or independent schools; educational activities for students of schools or post-secondary institutions in any location when provided by a school, said Smillie.
“(S)o this means that coaches of school teams do not fall within this health order,” she said.
Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily