By Sean Brady, Kamloops This Week
School District 73 has decided to strike a committee to decide whether to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for staff.
Committee members will be chosen by district superintendent Rhonda Nixon and the committee will include both district staff and board trustees.
The B.C. government has decided against imposing a provincewide mandate and has delegated the task of deciding whether to impose such a measure to individual districts.
That decision, which may lead to varying rules district-by-district, does not sit well with some school trustees in Kamloops-Thompson.
“While I see the necessity of this committee, I am extremely frustrated that this decision has been downloaded to school boards, in that we are not public health officials. We do not have the data. The data is very general and non-specific,” trustee Kathleen Karpuk said.
Karpuk added the decision will hinge upon complex legal matters.
But fellow trustee and Kamloops lawyer John O’Fee said that might not be an issue.
“I would suggest we don’t really face any legal impediment to imposing this,” he said. “It’s really about what the science tells us. What do people, who are properly credentialed and trained, tell us is the best path forward for the health and wellness of our staff, students, their extended families and everybody else?”
Board chair Rhonda Kershaw, meanwhile, said because the decision is effectively a labour relations issue, discussion on the matter likely will not be public.
For its part, the provincial government has released a road map for districts to follow when considering whether to impose a vaccine mandate.
The committee will focus on the first two steps of the province’s suggested five-step plan. The first step would be to gather data and evidence to assess the number of staff who may be unvaccinated. The second step would be to make sure any policy coming forward would align with legal advice and public health guidance and orders.
The remaining steps would include community engagement, a final decision and an implementation plan.
Data from a recent survey conducted by the BC Teachers’ Federation suggest the vast majority of teachers have already received both required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
In the union’s survey of members, the data show 94 per cent of teachers self-reported their vaccine status as fully vaccinated (two doses or one shot of a single-dose vaccine).
One per cent self-reported to be partially vaccinated, two per cent said they are not vaccinated and do not plan to be, one per cent indicated an “other” response and two per cent preferred not to answer.