By Jeff Morris
Teachers and staff at local public schools will have to be fully vaccinated in 2021-22 unless a human rights exemption such as religious or health reasons is provided.
The Ottawa Carleton District School Board ratified the vote in a meeting called Wednesday, Sept. 1 after running out of time during a five-hour meeting the night before.
The board had gone through the first round of voting for mandatory vaccination of staff members. However, after some wording adjustments and discussion, trustees ran out of time before a ratification vote could be held.
The trustees held a vote to determine if they were going to continue the meeting, as is required in their bylaws. Barrhaven-Knoxdale-Merivale trustee Donna Blackburn voted to end the meeting, as there were still many other items to discuss.
Blackburn took a lot of criticism for her decision, but defended her decision to end the meeting at 11 p.m. However, she said that important decisions should not be made by an exhausted board in the middle of the night.
“Had we agreed to complete the entire agenda, we would have been debating and making decisions at two in the morning,” she said. “This is not how decisions of this magnitude should be made. We have to do better as a board. Think of the parents. These are the most important decisions of the school year for them. Would they want people making these decisions at 2 a.m.?”
The draft marked Sept. 30 as the date in which the rules for the vaccination of staff members would be put in place. Exemptions for human rights, such as medical and religious reasons, would be included in the policy.
Speaking on CTV Morning Sept. 2, OCDSB director of Education Camille Williams-Taylor said that implementing mandatory vaccinations for staff is just one of the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. She said that staff will also be wearing PPE, with masks on in class and throughout the school. Hand hygiene and social distancing will also be a big part of the board’s in-school plan.
“We’re still mindful of the number of the number of contacts that students have so we’re making sure our structures enable as tight a cohort as possible,” Williams-Taylor said.
Williams-Taylor added that she believes the board’s numbers for students over 12 being vaccinated are in line with the city’s numbers. She said that in Ottawa, 73 per cent of students were double vaccinated, while the percentage of students who had received at least one dose was well into the 80s.