For Immediate Release
November 10, 2021
A statement on behalf of the Sunshine Coast Board of Education: SD46 will not mandate Covid-19 vaccination for staff at this time
SUNSHINE COAST, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Sunshine Coast Board of Education Chair Amanda Amaral has released the following statement regarding Covid-19 vaccination mandates for staff.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the K-12 public education sector has been receiving, implementing and promoting Public Health Orders and public health advice. Our District has developed and maintained a positive working relationship with Vancouver Coastal Health to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the delivery of public education for students and staff. This relationship and information sharing have allowed our schools to remain open and safe for in-person education.
The BCCDC and VCH have repeatedly indicated that they do not believe that a public health order requiring mandatory vaccination of staff is required to ensure the safety of staff and students in schools. The Province of British Columbia has also informed us that individual employers are permitted to implement policies that require mandatory vaccination in their contexts and the Board of Education of School District No. 46 (Sunshine Coast) carefully considered this option.
In our consideration we used the K-12 Sector Guidelines for Vaccination Policies document as a guide – a document created by an Advisory Committee of education and health stakeholder groups, convened and led by the Ministry of Education.
Step 1 in this framework requires us to consider the data. We have been provided with detailed data and guidance from our health authority, VCH, who is our guide in this health crisis. We know that the Sunshine Coast has high community vaccination rates, with over 84% of those eligible already having received two doses. Furthermore, we know that in-school transmission continues to be low and that the risk for unvaccinated youth remains lower than for vaccinated adults. Transmission is significantly reduced when target immunization rates are met and schools can safely operate with lower than 100% vaccine coverage.
We also considered internal Human Resources data and the provincial survey of teachers conducted by the BCTF, which found that 94% of teachers who responded were fully vaccinated. The provincial guideline discusses the possibility of requesting voluntary self-disclosure of vaccination status by staff. Due to privacy legislation data collection would not be mandatory and with voluntary self-disclosure, there would be issues with the reliability due to incomplete data. Self-selection bias and small sample size resulting from the size of our district are also problematic. What we know for certain is that maintaining fully staffed schools has been challenging, particularly given the current labour and housing markets. Any significant loss of staff could result in school closures, with a negative impact on students, their families and the community in general.
Our District’s values provide us with a North Star in our decision-making process and make the decision around vaccine mandate clear. Our choice is supported by values, data, and student and staff health and safety. It maintains in-person learning and preserves public education as a low-barrier service essential to the healthy growth and development of our children and youth on the Sunshine Coast.
After careful consideration, the Sunshine Coast Board of Education has decided we will not pursue a vaccine mandate for staff at this time.
Our Board encourages all those eligible for vaccination to consider the public health advice to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccines are the best protection against COVID 19 by reducing transmission and reducing complications if contracted. It is precisely our high local vaccination rate that allows us to feel confident in our decision that our students, staff and community’s best interests and health and safety are met with vaccination remaining a personal health choice.
The Board of Education of School District No. 46 (Sunshine Coast) will continue to work collaboratively with the Ministry of Education and Public Health. We remain responsive, flexible and nimble to the evolving needs of our community and ensure our staff and students’ health and safety.
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