Hundreds of Hamilton public education workers not vaccinated or aren’t saying if they are

A number of employees working in Hamilton’s public school system are either not vaccinated against COVID-19 or have not said whether they have had two jabs yet.

Both the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and the Catholic board (HWCDSB) combined are reporting roughly 1,500 staff members have not been fully vaccinated as of Thursday.

Of the 7,196 HWDSB employees required to disclose their immunization status, just over 6,000 (84.6 per cent) have attested to being fully vaccinated.

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About eight per cent (575 people) revealed they were not vaccinated, with 65 providing a medical reason for not getting shots and 466 that are unknown due to not submitting an attestation form.

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The HWCDSB says 3,336 staffers reported they are fully vaccinated, while 15 were not due to medical reasons. About 5.5 per cent (221) say they are partially vaccinated while 11 per cent (432) have not yet submitted a form.

The province required local school boards to post attestation numbers as of Wednesday after Ontario’s chief medical officer said a disclosure policy would be required for all publicly-funded school board employees, staff in private schools and licensed child care.

Under the guidelines, the Ford government mandated the disclosure but left it up to the boards to deal with exemptions.

HWDSB chair Dawn Danko told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton that all staff under their policy – which includes trustees, and service providers –  were expected to submit a formal attestation and identify if they are ‘fully vaccinated’ against COVID-19.

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However, there is no process for volunteers and Danko said they will only allow those participants that are vaccinated into schools.

Staffers who are not vaccinated will have to undergo a COVID education program and get regular rapid testing.

“For any employee that’s not fully vaccinated, they would have to go through an exemption process to get approval,” Danko said.

“If you don’t have approval for an exemption under the human rights code, that includes medical, religion, ideology, then you may not be able to go into our physical spaces.”

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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.

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

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.

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.

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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.

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Global News has reached out to the ministry to find out who is responsible for paying for the testing for those not providing answers or getting vaccinated.

Danko says at present, the HWDSB does not have an exercise to deal with those not vaccinated and refuse to get shots.

“If they still refuse, then we will have to take additional steps and that could include an unpaid leave,” Danko said.

“And if we find that there is a particular roadblock or there’s a particular issue that we’re stuck on, then we’ll be bringing it back to the board of trustees.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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