BOW VALLEY – Canadian Rockies Public Schools is investigating mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers and staff.
The CRPS board of trustees has directed senior administration to gather information from staff and the community in order to inform this decision.
“The board is in support of vaccinations for staff and eligible students and therefore is considering the possibility of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations within the school division (for staff),” said CRPS chair Carol Picard in an Oct. 13 letter to families and staff.
“Senior administration is presently determining the impact of potential mandatory vaccinations on system operations such as staffing, access to rapid testing and transportation.”
Chris MacPhee, superintendent of CRPS, said it is only looking at a vaccine mandate for staff.
"CRPS won't be mandating anything to do with vaccines for student; that has to come from a government agency," he said.
Picard said a decision regarding mandatory vaccinations will be made in the “very near future.”
In the meantime, she encouraged staff and students to stay home if they are feeling sick.
“The actions of us all will help keep our students, staff and families healthy and safe,” she said.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Picard said CRPS has focused on doing everything possible to keep its schools open to give all students a chance to continue participating fully in their learning.
“A key priority in our new four-year education plan is the health and well being of students and staff,” she said.
The Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) supports a vaccine mandate for teachers and other school staff.
In late September, an ATA statement encouraged the provincial government and, in its failure to do so, individual school boards to mandate vaccines and outline the specific conditions required to develop a reasonable mandate
“The best way to support student safety at a time when so many students cannot be vaccinated is to ensure that the adults around them are vaccinated,” said ATA president Jason Schilling in the Sept. 28 news release.
“We cannot mandate vaccination for our members so we are making-it clear that we believe those who can like the government of Alberta or individual school boards – should.”
The ATA got legal advice that speaks to the conditions required for a reasonable vaccine mandate.
These conditions ensure that mandates are temporary, that reasonable accommodations are available and that non-compliance is handled in a way that is non-disciplinary but still protects school safety.
Schilling said the ATA does not anticipate providing support to members wishing to challenge vaccine mandates that meet the criteria.
“We will not be part of opposing or challenging vaccine mandates, so long as the policies are reasonable,” he said.
“School boards will have to ensure that employee privacy is respected as much as possible and personal information will have to be stored securely, but this is an area where a balancing of rights and responsibilities is warranted.”
The Calgary Board of Education requires all employees, volunteers and CBE partners to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 17. Calgary Catholic Schools also require proof of vaccination from staff. Rocky View Schools has gone the same route.