Central Okanagan trustees seek more accurate vaccine data from staff

Informal survey failed to provide adequate vaccination assessment

Mar Jok Elementary School in West Kelowna has been closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but classes are slated to reconvene at the school on Monday, Nov. 22. (File photo)

The Central Okanagan Board of Education wants more confirmed vaccination data for teachers and support staff before making a decision whether or not to impose a vaccine mandate.

At an in-camera meeting Wednesday (Nov. 10), the board opted to pursue an employee vaccination status validation process involving all staff and trustees.

Moyra Baxter, chair of the Central Okanagan Board of Education, said attempts at an informal survey of school district employees failed to provide sufficient data for the board to move forward.

Baxter said Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO, will meet with union and teachers’ federation representatives next week to iron out what that validation process will look like.

Kaardal said the process will go forward with no firm timeline as of yet.

The resolution, moved by trustee Norah Bowman and seconded by Chantelle Desrosiers, was carried in-camera with trustees Amy Geistlinger and Lee-Ann Tiede opposed.

The move comes in the wake of four school districts in the Lower Mainland deciding to not implement the vaccine mandate.

Baxter said last week that vaccination rates are a key factor for consideration by the Central Okanagan trustees.

Kaardal noted confidentiality will be respected in the formal survey results, with the collected data base accessible only to a small number of administrative staff.

Meanwhile, Kaardal updated the situation at Mar Jok Elementary in West Kelowna, as the school was closed by order of Interior Health on Tuesday due to a COVID outbreak.

He said the school is slated to reopen Nov. 22, with students and teachers relying on remote learning in the interim.

Nicola Baker, vice-president of the Central Okanagan Parents Advisory Council, noted many parents were upset the decision to close the school was posted by a media outlet prior to them learning of the decision.

Kaardal said the school district administration was notified of the pending school closure order on Monday, protocols were put in place with the ministry of education and Interior Health (IH), the school staff were informed Tuesday morning and letters went out to parents at 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

He said information leaked out to the media outlet prior to the letters being sent out to parents, but that was not due to a formal announcement from either IH or the school district.

Baker said parents have voiced frustration about the timeline for IH alerting parents for school exposures, a complaint that has been registered in other school districts within IH in recent weeks.

Since COVID measures were enacted for school reopenings in June 2020, Mar Jok is the first Central Okanagan public school to be closed due to an outbreak.

READ MORE: COVID-19 outbreak declared at West Kelowna elementary school

READ MORE: School board to review implications of vaccine mandate

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