Revelstoke school district to consider staff vaccination policy

Revelstoke schools education board to discuss staff vaccination policies at its Oct. 27 meeting. This follows the release of a B.C. Ministry of Education document on Oct. 22 that provides guidance for school districts on the question of staff vaccination policies.

File photo: Revelstoke Secondary School. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

Revelstoke’s school district will consider staff COVID-19 vaccination policy at its Oct. 27 Board of Education Trustees meeting.

In B.C., the provincial government has left decisions on district staff vaccination policies to individual school districts.

On Oct. 22, the B.C. education ministry released new guidelines for K-12 school boards on the question of COVID-19 school staff vaccination policies.

In an Oct. 22 media release, the B.C. Ministry of Education said the new guidelines, “provide a roadmap to enable school boards to make an informed decision on a mandatory vaccination policy and help school boards to ensure that the continued delivery of safe in-person education is a top priority.”

The ministry’s guidelines document, which can be viewed here, breaks the process down into steps.

Jennifer Whiteside, B.C. Minister of Education, said the guidelines enable trustees to, “make decisions around vaccination policies that work best for their communities as we work together to continue to support a culture of vaccination in our schools.”

Following the Oct. 22 guidelines clarification from the ministry, the Revelstoke Board of Education is now scheduled to discuss the matter with school district staff at its Oct. 27 regular meeting.

In a one-page report that will appear on the meeting agenda, Superintendent of Schools, Mike Hooker, noted the advisory committee convened by the education ministry has released its report with guidelines.

Hooker notes that the guidelines set out five key steps for education boards to consider:

1. Gather data and evidence in alignment with privacy rules;
2. Confirmation of alignment with legal advice, public health guidance and Orders;
3. Consult with employee groups and First Nations and engage community;
4. Decide whether to create a proof of vaccination policy and announce decision; and
5. Implement operational plan.

In the report, Hooker outlined next steps: “Trustees will review these guidelines to ensure we are doing all we can to create safe and healthy work and learning conditions for students and staff and that decisions continue to put our students at the center of our planning and processes.”

Background: Provincial or district decision?

The B.C. government’s plan to delegate the decision on vaccine mandates to school districts saw some controversy, with some groups pushing for the B.C. government to set a uniform policy for the province. In October, both the opposition BC Liberals and the BC Teachers Federation expressed concern that leaving the decision to school districts could potentially lead to a piecemeal approach.

However, at this point, the B.C. government is moving forward with its plan to have school districts create policies. In written and oral statements, government officials have made it clear the question is not whether to implement staff vaccination policies, but how to do it.

The government says it has consulted with many groups in the development of its guidelines, including the BC School Trustees Association, the BC Teachers’ Federation, CUPE, the First Nations Education Steering Committee, the Federation of Independent Schools Association, and school district leadership associations, in consultation with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer. It says it is, “working with school boards to ensure they have the tools, resources and information they need to support this process.”