Sunshine Coast School District No. 46 (SD46) will not require its staff be vaccinated against COVID-19, the school board announced Nov. 10.
While the provincial government mandated vaccines for its public servants on Oct. 5, that order stopped short of including school staff. Instead, that decision was left up to the 60 individual school boards across B.C. as the employers.
On Oct. 22, the Ministry of Education released the K-12 Sector Guidelines for Vaccination Policies, developed with the BC School Trustees Association, BC Teachers’ Federation and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer among other stakeholders, to help school boards make an informed decision.
As of Nov. 9, no school district in B.C. had adopted a vaccine mandate for its staff.
School districts in Vancouver, Surrey – the province’s largest school district – New Westminster and Abbotsford were among those who decided against creating and enforcing such a mandate.
The school board for SD46 “carefully considered” its options, using the developed guidelines, and referring to a provincial survey of teachers that found 94 per cent of respondents were fully vaccinated.
“The BCCDC and VCH have repeatedly indicated that they do not believe that a public health order requiring mandatory vaccination of staff is required to ensure the safety of staff and students in schools,” SD46 board chair Amanda Amaral said in a statement.
She also cited the Sunshine Coast’s community vaccination rates – more than 84 per cent of eligible residents have received two doses of a COVID-19 immunization.
“Our board encourages all those eligible for vaccination to consider the public health advice to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccines are the best protection against COVID-19 by reducing transmission and reducing the complications if contracted. It is precisely our high local vaccination rate that allows us to feel confident in our decision that our students, staff and community’s best interests and health and safety are met with vaccination remaining a personal health choice,” Amaral’s statement read.
“Furthermore, we know that in-school transmission continues to be low and that the risk for unvaccinated youth remains lower than for vaccinated adults. Transmission is significantly reduced when target immunization rates are met and schools can safely operate with lower than 100% vaccine coverage.”
Maintaining fully staffed schools was also a challenge the board chair highlighted, stating, “Any significant loss of staff could result in school closures, with negative impact to students, their families and the community in general.”
SD46 will continue to work with the Ministry of Education and public health authorities.