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Toronto elementary school teachers, staff can lose jobs if they are not fully vaccinated

The Globe and Mail
Toronto elementary school teachers, staff can lose jobs if they are not fully vaccinated

Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and just a few days into the school year, Ontario reports 328 active cases in schools.

Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Toronto elementary school teachers and staff must have had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine by November 1 or face disciplinary action that may include termination of employment.

Staff at the Toronto District School Board told trustees at a meeting Tuesday that employees can submit a request for accommodation or exemption, in which case they must be tested twice a week for COVID-19.

The vaccination policy from Canada’s largest school board comes as the more transmissible Delta variant of coronavirus threatens to disrupt a third-year schooling and activities for students. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and just a few days into the school year, Ontario reports 328 active cases in schools.

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Audley Salmon, chief superintendent of staff services at TDSB, said the board wanted to give school staff a “reasonable time” to be fully vaccinated.

The TDSB police document states that the requirement applies to all school board employees, including supply teachers and casual teaching workers, as well as school board members and bus drivers.

“Persons who do not comply with this procedure may be subject to administrative or disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment,” the document said.

The TDSB policy said the board would consider requests for exemptions and “reasonable accommodation” under the Human Rights Code.

“However, this duty to comply must be weighed against the Board’s obligations to protect the health and safety of staff and students. Due to the serious health threat COVID-19 presents to the public, if a person is not vaccinated for a protected reason under the Code, a person may submit a request for accommodation or exemption ”for medical or religious reasons, according to TDSB policy.

Trustees voted last month that the TDSB should demand that all staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 and that staff would develop the policy. On Monday, shop stewards at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board adopted a proposal that all staff be fully immunized by November 30, unless they have exceptions or accommodation. Shawn McKillop, the board’s spokesman, said for non-compliant employees, “there would be a step-by-step approach to educating and rethinking.” Employees could also face discipline, he said.

Earlier this month, administrators at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board passed a proposal requiring all educators and staff to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by September 30, unless they have a medical or religious accommodation. Spokesman Darcy Knoll said in an email that persons with an approved exemption may be required to participate in a vaccination training program and undergo regular testing as required by the province.

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He said staff who choose not to be vaccinated and do not have a home will be subjected to further measures, including unpaid leave.

“Employees who have not been vaccinated and who do not start the vaccination process by September 30 will be subject to additional terms of employment / restrictions, which may include being on unpaid leave,” Knoll said.

The province has not ordered the inoculation of education workers, although the individual school boards are allowed to do so.

The provincial government has instead asked school boards to have their employees disclose their vaccination status to the employer. In a memo sent to education directors on Monday, Deputy Education Minister Nancy Naylor wrote that school staff who are not fully vaccinated should verify a negative test twice a week. Schools will distribute rapid test kits to be used at home no more than 48 hours before coming to work, Naylor wrote. As school boards wait for their supplies, the government also temporarily authorized pharmacies to quickly provide tests to school staff.

Regina Bateson, a mother of three in Ottawa, said she was frustrated that the province has been absent from requiring vaccination for those working in schools, especially because children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19. shot. “I was amazed at the amount of decision-making on these important policies that has been put on school boards,” she said.

Bateson said that while she was happy that her school board members require vaccination, she said decisions should have been made much earlier so the requirement would be in place by the beginning of the academic year. “It would have been much better to have it all in place now,” she said.

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