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COVID-19: Okanagan teacher’s union expresses confusion over new vaccine disclosure mandate

Click to play video: 'More questions than answers following a new public health order mandating B.C. school staff to disclose vaccination status'
More questions than answers following a new public health order mandating B.C. school staff to disclose vaccination status
More questions than answers following a new public health order mandating B.C. school staff to disclose vaccination status – Jan 18, 2022

It’s supposed to be a fairly straightforward mandate, but a new public health order issued by Dr. Bonnie Henry on Monday has led to more questions than answers.

“It’s very confusing,” said Susan Bauhart, president of the Central Okanagan Teacher’s Association.

In a written order, Henry announced that individual health authorities have the power to require school districts to collect vaccination disclosures from teachers and school support staff.

Bauhart said the new order is confusing because of a previous agreement between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, the B.C. Public Schools Employers’ Association, which is the bargaining agent for the government, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

That agreement paved the way for school districts to implement vaccine mandates and collect vaccine status information.

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“My frustration, I guess, is I understood the process that had been agreed upon, ” Bauhart told Global News. “This came from left field.”

School districts in Revelstoke and Delta were already following that agreed-upon process.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. school staff must reveal their vaccine status'
COVID-19: Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. school staff must reveal their vaccine status

“I don’t know what this does to the agreement that Delta and Revelstoke are following,” Bauhart said.

“I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

Central Okanagan Okanagan Public Schools was already in the process of requiring school staff to disclose their vaccine status.

“The Board of Education already has required vaccine status verification from all staff in Central Okanagan Public Schools,” said school superintendent Kevin Kaardal. “And so this provincial order…will only strengthen the requirement.”

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The requirement was strengthened late Tuesday afternoon with Interior Health (IH) medical health officer for Central Okanagan, Dr. Silvina Mema, issuing a directive to school District 23 requiring employees to report their COVID-19 vaccination status.

The board of education and superintendent will collect and share this information with IH.

IH said staff have until Jan. 28 to disclose their status on an aggregate, non individually identifying bass.

Kaardal said if an employee does not disclose their status, they will be considered unvaccinated.

The data will determine the board’s next step.

“It’ll be information that’s used to decide whether or not the Board of Education moves to stage two or step two of our process, which would be potentially a vaccine mandate and there is a motion tabled by trustee Norah Bowman to move to that stage, and it’ll be debated and discussed at our next public board meeting.”

The school board’s next meeting is Jan. 26.

Click to play video: 'Delta schools increase pressure on staff to vaccinate'
Delta schools increase pressure on staff to vaccinate

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