Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers and school staff raising questions

Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers and staff is raising some questions about how the vaccination and testing of staff will be monitored.

In August, the province mandated people who work with vulnerable populations to be fully vaccinated by the end of October – including teachers and school staff.

Suzanne Issaac, whose daughter is in grade five, said she believes it was the right decision.

"I think if these parents are sending their kids to school and these teachers are around these kids, it's a safety precaution for the parents as well as the teachers," she said.

The Louis Riel School Division said it has been working on a policy to implement the province's new vaccination mandate since August. Christian Michalik, the division's superintendent, said over the weekend the division gathered the vaccination status of all its employees.

"You have a survey to fill out this weekend where you will self-declare your vaccination status," he said. "When you come into school on Tuesday, staff verify vaccination status as self-declared in the survey."

Michalik said around 95 per cent of division staff are fully vaccinated. Of those who are not, he said many are on the way to being fully vaccinated.

"If folks aren't vaccinated, then they do need to provide a negative test result three times a week," Michalik said. "That was initiated yesterday for a few staff."

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society said it is working with the Manitoba School Boards Association on how to implement the new mandate across the province, “to ensure that there's as much uniformity across the entire system," James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, told CTV News. "If I'm not mistaken, I believe we're still waiting to hear what the specific details of the testing option are going to be."

Issaac said she'd like some details about the staff at her daughter’s school.

"It'd be nice for the schools to say, 'all the teachers at the school have received their vaccines."

The Louis Riel School Division said if necessary, it will accommodate any employee who is legally entitled to forgo the vaccine. It is getting test kits from the province in the near future, but in the meantime – unvaccinated staff need to get tested at one of the city's testing sites.