As the COVID-19 Omicron variant continues to loom large with cases rising in the Kootenay region, the Kootenay Lake School District No. 8 board has decided to direct Superintendent Trish Smillie to create and implement a Proof of Vaccination Procedure for all staff and contractors.
This resolution, passed by the board during the Tuesday, January 18, 2022, meeting, will not apply to students.
“Our board is tasked with making decisions that support our staff and our students to remain healthy so teachers can teach, and students can learn,” Board Chair Lenora Trenaman said in a media release statement Thursday.
“We recognize that when adults get vaccinated, they protect their coworkers and students from COVID-19.”
Kootenay Lake covers a wide geographical area and serves numerous communities within the East and West Kootenay region, including Nelson, Kaslo, Salmo, Creston, Crawford Bay and North Kootenay Lake.
The media release said the purpose of the Proof of Vaccination Procedure is to safeguard the health and safety of employees and students from COVID-19.
Wednesday, on the BC Centre of Disease Control website the Geographic Distribution of COVID-19 by Local Health Area of Case Residence map showed from January 9-15, 2022, the Nelson area reported 232 new cases.
Creston reported 27 and Kootenay Lake registered three new COVID-19 cases.
Nelson’s cases were the second most in the Kootenay/Boundary, with Cranbrook leading the way with 237.
The Kootenay Lake School Board said the procedure will require SD8 staff and contractors to provide proof of vaccination to the employer unless they are legally entitled to accommodation for medical reasons or under the Human Rights Code of British Columbia or Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms.
The media release said the procedure will ensure the School District’s privacy obligations are met during the collection of employee information.
The board said as part of this procedure, SD8 is required to keep a record of each staff member’s vaccination status.
Anyone who does not provide that proof will be deemed to be unvaccinated.
“Employee representatives including unions and joint health and safety committees, as well as parents, Indigenous partners, and community partners will be consulted as this procedure is created and implemented,” Superintendent Smillie explained in the media release.
The media release said all staff will be required to provide proof of their vaccination status by March 11, 2022.
“Staff who are unvaccinated or who fail to disclose their vaccination status by the deadline will be required to undergo regular rapid testing in order to continue work or take an Extraordinary Leave of Absence (unpaid),” the media release said.
“The proof of vaccine requirement will not apply to students.”
The media release said this timeframe will allow unvaccinated or partially vaccinated employees enough time to get vaccinated. It will also enable the district to set up a process for collecting vaccination status information from employees in a way that protects their privacy.
The release said further information will be available once the Proof of Vaccination Procedure has been finalized.
“When developing the procedure, the school district will follow the framework and guidance developed by the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA),” the media release said.
“This will ensure that the proof of vaccination requirement for employees is aligned to other school districts in the province.”