Moyra Baxter, chair of the Central Okanagan Board of Education. (File photo)

Vaccination mandate adoption facing Central Okanagan school trustees

Resolution for Jan. 26 board meeting calls for adoption of mandate for teachers, support staff

The Central Okanagan Board of Education will consider a motion at its Jan. 26 meeting to implement a vaccination mandate for school district teachers and support staff.

The notice of motion was introduced by trustee Norah Bowman at the end of Wednesday’s board meeting, which was preceded by several questions from the public largely on the perceived negative merits of current provincial health order policies affecting schools, including the vaccine mandate.

The motion is introduced as the board of education imposed a deadline for school district teachers, principals and vice-principals, and support staff to confirm their COVID vaccination status approaches on Friday.

The notice of motion calls for the school board to direct school district superintendent/CEO Kevin Kaardal to implement a vaccination mandate to follow the operating procedure specified in the letters of agreement between the B.C. Public School Employers Association and BC Teachers’ Federation and CUPE K-12 President’s Council and support staff unions.

School board chair Moyra Baxter faced several questions speculating on what statistical basis the trustees would ultimately decide on the vaccine mandate question.

“Until we have the actual numbers in front of us, it is very difficult to say how we will proceed,” Baxter said during the meeting.

She said the response as of Wednesday to the school district response for vaccination status from school employees has not been 100 per cent.

She said after Friday, anyone on the school district payroll who did not respond to the vaccine survey will be considered unvaccinated as trustees decipher how to move forward.

Since the provincial government downloaded a decision on a vaccine mandate for school teachers and support staff on individual school districts last fall, several school boards in the Lower Mainland have voted not to adopt the vaccine mandate.

In response, the Central Okanagan Board of Education carried out an informal survey of staff to determine the level of vaccination of teachers and support staff, but the response was insufficient to make a policy determination, leading to the follow-up survey request.

And Baxter reiterated that not all Central Okanagan trustees have been in agreement with public health protocols with regards to the restriction imposed on schools.

During the Zoom board meeting, eight people requested an opportunity to raise questions during the public consultation period, and all were opposed citing a variety of public health policy negative impacts – students and their education experience being adversely affected; the validity of vaccines as the Omicron variant continues to spread and the discriminatory nature of a vaccine mandate for teachers and support staff.

Baxter said trustees will be diligent in considering all the data submitted by residents, what provincial heath guidelines have stipulated and what the vaccine enrolment response has been locally for school teachers and staff.

“I know people feel very strongly about what they believe otherwise they would not be here asking these questions tonight…I also believe that nobody should be forced to have a vaccination, but there are consequences if you decide not to do so,” Baxter said.

“We are seeing those consequences play out now where people can’t do certain public things like eating in a restaurant without being vaccinated. That is the world we are increasingly living in now.”

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