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North Shore school boards reject vaccine mandates

Both North and West Vancouver school districts announce there will be no vaccine mandate for staff
Both SD44 and SD45 have said no to vaccine mandates for staff.

Both the North and West Vancouver school boards have decided not to require mandatory COVID vaccinations for teachers and other staff.

Both boards announced the decision to forgo a vaccine mandate on Monday, following in-camera decisions.

There are over 2,700 employees working for North Vancouver school district.

In a statement, North Vancouver Board of Education Chair George Tsiakos said the board considered “all aspects of possibly implementing a vaccination mandate on staff, including associated benefits, risks, and challenges.”

Among the factors leading to the decision was the high vaccination rate in North Vancouver – with between 93 per cent of people over the age of 12 fully vaccinated, said Tsiakos. According to a survey of teachers conducted this fall, the vaccination rate for public school teachers is also already high, at about 94 per cent, said Tsiakos.

He added public health officials have assured school districts that schools remain low-risk settings for transmission of the virus and that “a 100 per cent vaccination rate is not required to operate schools in a safe manner,” said Tsiakos.

He added a vaccine mandate could create staffing challenges for the school district that would impact the classroom.

The West Vancouver Board of Education issued a similar statement, saying the school district is “not proceeding with a COVID-19 vaccine policy for staff at this time.”

The West Vancouver school district pointed to similar reasons as the North Van school district, adding a vaccine mandate for staff hasn’t been recommended for school staff by Vancouver Coastal Health.

The statement added the board will continue to monitor local data “and will revisit this decision if warranted.”

The North Shore school districts are among the last in the Lower Mainland to make a decision on mandatory vaccinations.

The decision does not come as a big surprise as so far no school district – including the largest school districts in the province – has opted to make vaccinations mandatory for staff, after the province left it up to each school board to make the decision.

School districts have been told there would likely be nobody available to enforce a vaccine mandate if one were put in place.

The decision by school districts not to mandate vaccines comes even as adult coaches of children’s sports activities are required to be vaccinated.

Other workers, such as provincial government employees and West Vancouver municipal workers, are also subject to vaccine mandates.

Some North Shore parents aren't happy with the decision.

"I think anyone working in a public environment which includes teachers and all school staff, should have mandate for vaccination," said Craig Utian, whose elementary-school-aged son contracted COVID-19 a year ago during an outbreak at Upper Lynn Elementary school.

Stephanie Dodd, a North Vancouver mom, also wasn't happy with the decision, but blamed the province rather than the local school boards.

"It's infuriating, but I'm even madder at the province for not just taking leadership on this," Dodd wrote on social media.

Others, like North Vancouver mom Kim Coleman, said she would have liked a vaccine mandate but understood if would likely present practical challenges, especially when no other school districts have made their staff get the jab. "It was probably not a fight they would win," she said.