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SD73 implements ‘staff vaccination procedure’

Vaccination procedure for staff ‘is an important step in continuing to privilege student and staff safety in our district now and in the future’
School District 73 Board of Trustees, 2018 to 2022. Top row, l-r: Meghan Wade, John O’Fee, Heather Grieve, Joe Small, Diane Jules. Bottom row, l-r: Cara McKelvey, Rhonda Kershaw, Kathleen Karpuk, Shelley Sim. (School District 72 photo)

The board of education for School District 73 voted in favour to direct the superintendent to implement a proof of vaccination procedure for all employees, taking effect May 9, 2022, during a regular meeting Monday (Feb. 8) night, “to help protect the health and safety of both staff and students.”

The school district noted in a press release that the procedure was implemented to limit the impacts of the coronavirus and that it aligns with the recommendations for public employers from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

SD73 had also received a letter from Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Selvina Mema, supporting “mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for school staff and other workplaces where there is risk of transmission among workers or to vulnerable individuals.”

Board chair Heather Grieve said the SD73 board will work with those who require accommodations for medical reasons, as well as those who choose to not be vaccinated, with the option of a rapid test.

“We will work through necessary steps to operationalize this procedure,” Grieve said in the press release. “As recommended by Dr. Mema in her letter, our board will take a ‘stepped approach’ in mitigating staff shortages and ensuring continuity of learning for students.”

The press release noted a vaccination procedure for staff “is an important step in continuing to privilege student and staff safety in our district now and in the future.”

Based on a voluntary vaccination survey, about 47 per cent of SD73 staff provided proof of vaccination, meaning a rapid test option would be required to ensure the district could continue to provide services to the community, associate superintendent of human resources Shayne Olsen told the board Monday night. The cost of the rapid testing program will be about $13,800 per month.

While speaking to the board, Dr. Rhonda Nixon noted that new cases of COVID-19 are increasing in Kamloops, but decreasing in communities in the North Thompson. Furthermore, SD73 “is in the second and third worst categories for case numbers” in the province since the report was first presented in October.

She also shared data from the BC Centres for Disease Control that showed unvaccinated people are 50 to 80 times more likely to be hospitalized, and the Interior region has the highest hospitalization rate in the province. It also has the second lowest rate of vaccination in B.C.

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