Vaccine mandates for school staff: Here's a quick look at the province's guidance for B.C. boards

Cambridge Elementary School, which was ordered closed for two weeks by Fraser Health due to a COVID-19 outbreak, is seen in Surrey, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ignoring calls from a union representing B.C. teachers, the province is sticking to its plan for vaccine mandates to be put in place at the district level, issuing guidelines directed to school boards thinking about imposing such requirements.

Organizations including the B.C. Teachers' Federation have been critical of the decision, suggesting mandates should be issued by the NDP government for consistency across the province.

But officials say that it's up to employers to put in place any rules around vaccinations. After weeks of questions and public criticism, the government agreed to offer guidance to boards, though there will be no province-wide mandates imposed at this time.

The Ministry of Education said in a news release that the guidelines, released Friday, were created following consultation with the BCTF, as well as the B.C. School Trustees Association, Canadian Union of Public Employees, the First Nations Education Steering Committee and others, as well as the provincial health officer.

The nine-page document of guidelines geared to K-12 school boards suggest those considering a mandate follow the below "roadmap" to creating a custom policy:

  1. Gather data on the number of staff currently unvaccinated, while taking into account existing privacy rules.
  2. Seek legal advice, and consult with medical health officers.
  3. Conduct a larger consultation involving First Nations, employee groups and the school district community, including parent advisory committees.
  4. Make a decision, and announce it.
  5. Put the plan in action, using some tool to assess proof of vaccination.

The guidelines posted online contain further details on each step, and say the goal of such mandates, if they are put in place, should be on reducing the impact of COVID-19 on in-class learning, and prioritizing the health and safety of students and staff.

The full document is available online.