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No vaccine mandate for Sooke School District staff, but new hires must be vaccinated

SD62 board asks superintendent to prepare for possible declaration of a mandate later
Sooke School District board chair Ravi Parmar on Tuesday (Dec. 21) announces the board’s decision not to institute a vaccine mandate for staff, but that all new hires must be vaccinated. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

The Sooke School District (SD62) is not implementing a vaccine mandate for all staff, but is instead instituting the requirement for all new hires to be fully vaccinated.

A vaccine mandate hasn’t been ruled out.

SD62 superintendent Scott Stinson has been asked to make preparations that would enable the district to declare a full-staff mandate as quickly as possible, according to board chair Ravi Parmar. Based on consultations, declaring a mandate would take around six weeks, he said, a time frame the district hopes can be reduced by starting preparations now.

A number of factors went into deciding against declaring a mandate now, Parmar said, including other school boards rejecting them and the labour shortage the district is facing for some positions.

“We are concerned about the impact that the vaccine mandates may have on our labor shortage,” he said. “We’re already very short of bus drivers as an example, and if we lost a couple more, it would have a devastating impact on our district with students being able to get to school.”

Parmar said a survey sent out to SD62 staff asking their opinion on a mandate had a roughly 50 per cent response rate and of those respondents, 92 per cent were vaccinated. Information from Island Health indicated the vaccine rate among SD62 staff could be as high as 95 per cent, he added.

The mandate decision was made after months of consultation with staff, parents, students and unions, Parmar said. It was put off until now because the board was waiting on advice from the British Columbia Public School Employers Association.

There is no specific threshold for when a mandate would be declared, he said, but the board is monitoring the data closely.

“One thing that we were very mindful of is we’re not public health care experts,” he said. “We are not Dr. Henry, or the provincial health office. We would have preferred if Dr. Henry and the provincial health office had made this decision, but we respect that they weren’t able to do so.”

B.C.’s largest school district, Surrey, opted against a vaccine mandate in November. More recently Fraser Cascade School District 78’s board decided against implementing a vaccine mandate.

READ MORE: B.C.’s largest school district decides against mandating COVID-19 vaccines for staff

READ MORE: No vaccine mandate for Fraser Cascade School District


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