Thousands of education workers in Waterloo Region unvaccinated or aren’t saying if they are

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Thousands of education staff working in Waterloo Region are either unvaccinated against COVID-19 or have not said whether they have had two jabs yet.

The province required local school boards to post attestation numbers on Wednesday and just 66.5 per cent of the Waterloo Region District School Board’s 9,851 trustees and employees have said they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with one person getting a medical pass.

Read more: Ontario details rapid COVID-19 testing protocol for school boards as schools report cases

The board says 2,984 employees (30.3 per cent) have failed to respond to the request for attestation.

“Testing for these individuals will be occuring twice weekly,” Graham Shantz, coordinating superintendent of human resources & equity services, stated.

“The government has procured and provided school boards with the rapid antigen testing kits.”

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The Waterloo Catholic District School Board says 80.9 per cent of its 3,737 employees who have attested are vaccinated, although 10 per cent have yet to respond. Another 0.2 per cent have been granted a medical waiver.

According to a document obtained by Global News that contained direction from the province, staff had until Sept. 7 to submit a formal attestation to their local school boards.

Those who do work for the boards but are not employed by them, such as bus drivers, are also required to attest to their vaccination status.

For the public board, this works out to 813 people, with 517 of those having been vaccinated with documentation, another 117 vaccinated without documentation and eight medical waivers.

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The board says it is unclear how many employees of other companies have failed to respond.

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At the Catholic board, it is a similar story as it says 78 per cent of those people are vaccinated and 32 per cent have not submitted an attestation form. Another .8 per cent have received a medical waiver.

The boards were required by the province to post these numbers by Sept. 15 and to update them on a monthly basis.

Read more: Waterloo school board to ask province to add COVID-19 vaccine to mandatory vaccine list

According to The Canadian Press, Deputy Education Minister Nancy Naylor issued a memo to school boards on Monday that said that those who are not vaccinated are required to be tested twice a week, no more than 48 hours before work.

The memo said there should be three days between testing, which will be done at home, so, for example, tests should occur Monday and Thursday or Friday and Tuesday.

The boards have until Sept. 27 to implement the rules, which includes an educational video for those who are not vaccinated. They will also have to submit their tests manually or through an app.

“All staff must attest by the due date or will be supported through corrective action,” Shantz said.

A spokesperson for the province says they will be sending rapid antigen screening kits to schools by September 20.

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“Once received, school boards/schools are to make these testing kits available for those attesting to not being fully vaccinated and to confirm a negative test result prior to the employee/visitor entering the workplace twice per week,” Caitlin Clark said in an email.

Until the kits are received, the province is allowing some pharmacies to make kits available to the staff for use.

—with files from The Canadian Press

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