School District 83 trustees opened discussion on mandatory vaccination of school district staff at their Oct. 19 board meeting. (File photo)

School District 83 trustees opened discussion on mandatory vaccination of school district staff at their Oct. 19 board meeting. (File photo)

North Okanagan-Shuswap school trustees open discussion on mandatory vaccination of staff

Board asks staff to prepare information

The topic of mandatory vaccination for School District 83 staff was broached at the Oct. 19 school board meeting.

During the meeting, secretary treasurer Dale Culler noted how over the past number of weeks, the topic of mandatory vaccinations has come up for the school district and businesses across the province. Despite Premier John Horgan being asked to make a decision on the issue that would be effective provincewide, he recently announced a decision on mandatory vaccination would be up to school boards.

Culler explained this raised additional questions and concerns by the B.C. School Trustees Association on behalf of school boards. In response, he said Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside put together an ad hoc committee to consider what taking the mandatory vaccination route might look like for school boards. He added the BC Public School Employer’s Association (BCPSEA) is pursuing legal opinions and a possible framework.

Culler noted that at a recent meeting attended by board chairs, superintendents and secretary treasurers, they had the opportunity to hear from the ministry and the people on the ad hoc committee.

“They are asking boards to be patient but united,” said Culler. “Hopefully the information will be available for boards to consider soon.”

Read more: Mandatory vaccination for B.C. school staff up to boards, says B.C. premier

Read more: Modelling shows COVID-19 cases stabilizing in B.C., but children now most at risk

School board chair Amanda Krebs also attended the meeting, and said Whiteside stressed nothing should be done without first consulting the local provincial health officer. She said legal advice was being sought on whether trustees could even vote on mandatory vaccination – if they could be deemed in conflict depending on if they or their spouse is part of a union. She said the board shouldn’t even debate the matter until they had received that legal advice.

“Minister Whiteside… asked us not to make a decision until we had those guidelines and framework in front of us. As much as people wanted to jump in and do this right away, we should all have the same reference,” said Krebs.

Trustee Tennile Lachmuth agreed that waiting for the information was the right choice but felt local preparation should be done so at the next board meeting trustees would be prepared to have the conversation. She asked that the board direct staff to develop a draft policy for mandatory vaccinations in the school district.

After discussion, this was amended to staff preparing a briefing note for the board.
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