B.C.’s biggest school district, Surrey, will not be mandating COVID vaccines for staff

Click to play video: 'B.C. school staff vaccine mandate developments'
B.C. school staff vaccine mandate developments
B.C's largest school district will not pursue a vaccine mandate for teachers and school staff. What will this decision mean for other school boards? Richard Zussman reports. – Nov 2, 2021

The Surrey School Board has announced it will not be mandating COVID-19 vaccines for adult staff.

The board announced Tuesday that while it recognizes the importance of vaccines and it encourages everyone to get vaccinated, doing so will not be a condition of employment for any staff in the school system.

The Surrey School District is the largest in B.C.

“We have an obligation to our community to keep our schools open and to continue providing a safe learning environment for our students,” Terry Allen, vice-chair of the Surrey Board of Education said in a release. Schools are a low-risk setting for transmission and public health experts have assured us that our schools are safe and that we do not need 100 (per cent) vaccination rates for safe operation.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. School vaccine mandate guidance'
B.C. School vaccine mandate guidance

A few weeks ago, the British Columbia government released guidelines for school districts to follow if they are going to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for staff.

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Such a mandate would require teachers, administrators, cleaning staff, educational assistants and other adults in the school system to be immunized.

The province has refused to provide guidance on whether school districts should vote to impose vaccine mandates, instead encouraging all staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Liberals have raised concerns that allowing districts to decide would create a piecemeal approach.

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The Surrey School Board said its decision also considered the fact that the Surrey and White Rock areas have high community vaccination rates, with more than 90 per cent of those eligible already having received at least one dose and about 87 per cent having received two doses.

“Furthermore, we know that in-school transmission continues to be low,” Allen said.

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Click to play video: 'Pressure on B.C.’s health-care system increasing'
Pressure on B.C.’s health-care system increasing

President of the Surrey Parent Advisory Committee, Rina Diaz, said she was a little disappointed to hear the news but understands the reasons why the decision was made.

“The staff rate in our schools is pretty high, we’re almost at 90 per cent so the last little bit they feel will change their minds in coming days and if not, it’s not that high of a number,” she said.

However, she did point out the school air quality and ventilation are still issues, so that too is a concern.

The board said it will continue to support vaccinations by hosting clinics and promoting vaccination to school communities.


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