Thames Valley teachers will not face mandatory vaccines

Teachers with the Thames Valley District School Board will not have to be vaccinated to continue in-class learning this school year.

A motion for a vaccine mandate for all staff was withdrawn at a special meeting of the board of trustees Wednesday evening. Trustees instead opted to continue giving teachers a choice between the vaccine and frequent testing.

“We had very little wiggle room,” said TVDSB director of education Mark Fisher. “Ultimately we have to be compliant with ministry guidelines and ministry direction.”

Fisher says teachers and staff will have to continue with protocols already in place, which include proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or twice weekly testing for COVID-19 with negative results.

Fisher says the policy aligns with directives from the province.

“Our key priority is making sure that our staff and students are safe. And we feel that with this new policy that you either have to demonstrate on a regular basis that you’re COVID free, or in fact that you are vaccinated, is the most prudent way to go moving forward.”

As of now the province has not mandated vaccines for students either, and only those aged 12 and over are eligible to receive the shot.

President of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Thames Valley, Craig Smith, says the union is hoping that changes.

“Why the government hasn’t used the tool of the Immunization of Pupils Act is a bit of a puzzle. You need to have it for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, but not COVID. That, with the backdrop of a variant that really does target the unvaccinated and the young is a really difficult situation for us to be facing right now.”

The vaccination policy for TVDSB takes effect Sept. 27.