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School District 73 continues exploring whether vaccination mandate is needed

Since a committee was formed in late October, the first of five steps has been completed and the group will advance to the second and third steps

Work on exploring a vaccination mandate for School District 73 staff and teachers is continuing.

A committee has been exploring the idea since Oct. 25, when the school board created the group.

In the months since the committee was formed, the first of five steps has been completed and, following a board vote on Monday (Jan. 10) evening, the group will advance to the second and third steps.

The district is following a path laid out by the province in a document called the K-12 Sector Guidelines for Vaccination Policies.

The first step, now completed, was to gather data and evidence for the need of a vaccination policy. In its work for the first step, the district issued an employee survey and found 92 per cent of all district staff reported they were partially or fully vaccinated.

SD73 Supt. Rhonda Nixon said she is comfortable and confident in the process so far and believes it is going well, especially because the templates being used have been vetted by legal council and there is engagement at the provincial level with the groups involved, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the BC Teachers' Federation.

"I feel that not only is it legally sound, but we know at the provincial level the employee groups are consenting to the template. We have everything we need," Nixon said.

Despite that, the board on Monday said it is not a foregone conclusion that a mandate will be implemented in the district.

Two motions moved the fact-finding process along. The first was a motion to direct Nixon to proceed with a voluntary self-disclosure program for employees, who can provide their proof-of-vaccination status to confirm data already gathered in the survey. The second was to proceed to the second and third steps of the process. Both motions carried.

The next step in the process is to ensure any potential policy would be in line with legal advice and public health guidance and orders, while Step 3 will include consultation with employee groups and Indigenous rights holders and community engagement.

The final two steps would include implementing, or not implementing, a vaccination policy.

While those steps continue, Nixon said staff may prepare a draft procedure for the policy that could be considered later, should the board opt to implement a mandate.