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New West school board seeking legal opinion on mandatory staff vaccination

A report is expected back at the board's Oct. 12 operations committee meeting
COVID vaccination
Should New Westminster teachers and schools staff be required to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated? School District 40 is exploring that question now.

The New Westminster school board is seeking a legal opinion on whether it should make vaccines mandatory for school staff.

At a special board meeting held Friday afternoon, trustees voted unanimously to seek that legal opinion and receive a report back at their next operations committee meeting.

Trustee Maya Russell, who brought the idea forward, said she was a “little bit torn” on the issue. She noted how difficult it had been for some teachers and school staff to get vaccinations in the spring and said vaccination rates are already “very, very high.”

But, she said, vaccination offers one more layer of protection for local students.

“It’s another piece that where we could protect students, those younger students who are unable to be vaccinated themselves,” she said.

Trustee Danielle Connelly said she’d like to see the legal opinion include feedback on what options might be available to the district in the case of staff who can’t or won’t be vaccinated.

Trustee Dee Beattie noted the district will work with its two unions – the New Westminster Teachers’ Union and CUPE Local 409, which represents support staff – before coming to any decision.

“This is a really complex piece, and it’s not easy,” she said.

A report is expected back at the Oct. 12 operations committee meeting.

At a Friday morning briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stressed the importance of all adults being vaccinated. Despite the Delta variant, she said, vaccination means schools are in a “better place” this year than last.

“That’s because the adults in the school system have vaccination,” she said.

Henry said there are already “high rates of immunization in most school settings.”

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