The Mission School District will not impose a vaccine mandate on their employees at this time, the school board decided.
The board’s decision was based on a “balancing act” between privacy, operational issues, collective safety, and the recommendations of the Fraser Health Authority, says a Nov. 10 press release.
The release emphasised they have an obligation to keep schools open and operating.
“The number one message from the (BC Ministry of Education) was to keep schools open,” said Randy Cairns, vice-chair of the board.
Cairns said the school district is already suffering from a shortage of bus drivers and teachers, and a mandate would further challenge this.
“Having someone off on leave without pay … is not helpful,” he said, adding other reasons for the decision relate to the educational and mental health needs of their students.
The Mission School District is the latest Fraser Valley school board to decide against imposing a mandate on its staff, following Abbotsford and Chilliwack districts this week.
School boards across the province were provided vaccination-policy guidelines from the BC Ministry of Education on Oct. 22, and told to make their own decisions on whether a mandate was necessary.
The ministry was criticized by the BC Teachers’ Federation, who wanted uniform provincial policy and leadership.
Shortly after receiving the guidelines, the board directed staff to start gathering data of vaccination rates, exposures, cases, and in-school transmissions before making a decision.
The district distributed voluntary polls amongst their staff to get an idea on vaccination rates.
The results have participating staff well above Fraser Health’s 80 per cent threshold for recommending a mandate, Cairns said.
“It’s not totally scientific … but you can extrapolate (the percentages),” Cairns said.
He said the issue around staff privacy relates to requiring them to disclose medical information to employers, a move that would take a lot of “legal leg work.”
Cairns added that schools have a lot of safety protocols in them, and the transmission risks are far less than in the general community.
The board release states that every member of the school board has received their vaccine, and they still encourage all eligible staff to get vaccinated, particularly elementary school staff as young students cannot yet receive their shots.