'It’s not acceptable': Central Okanagan school trustees slam province for dumping vaccine mandate decision on them

Trustees send vaccine letter

Central Okanagan school trustees have passed a motion to send a letter to the government to express their disappointment that the province is downloading the decision on staff vaccine mandates onto school boards across B.C.

“Who should say that there should be a vaccine mandate? It should not be school boards,” said board chair Moyra Baxter during Wednesday's meeting.

“It should be the provincial health officer and up until now we’ve been told over and over again, just follow the provincial health orders, don’t go do anything that’s not a provincial health order, you could be liable to be sued and end up in jail and all these terrible things that might happen to you."

"Suddenly, it's... you do this. I think it’s not acceptable and I do not know why, That if this is important enough to have made a public statement about boards doing this, why they didn’t do it themselves,” she continued.

The letter will be sent to Premier John Horgan, the minister of education, minister of health and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Trustees also want to make it clear they don’t like the idea of the government downloading the cost of implementing a vaccine mandate onto school boards.

"Obviously by downloading onto us, it's not just the responsibility, it's the cost of it," said trustee Chantelle Desrosiers, who proposed the motion to send a letter to the government.

The SD 23 board delayed the decision on a vaccine mandate for employees.

It's waiting until after a meeting Thursday between board chairs from across the province and the Ministry of Education to hear more about the provincial direction and health advice.

The board has also directed district superintendent Kevin Kaardal to prepare a comprehensive report on any effects of a potential vaccine mandate for staff.

Central Okanagan Teachers' Association president Susan Bauhart addressed trustees Wednesday night.

"I understand this is a very, very layered decision that is before you. I also appreciated your Oct. 8 message to Central Okanagan Public School staff where you stated that you will consider all evidence and correspondence. I know that some of my members have been putting correspondence into you, but there are others too who perhaps are a little nervous about attaching their names to this."

She requested the board set up an online survey or feedback forum for staff to give their input, anonymously if necessary.

Three members of the public also made pleas to trustees to carefully consider the decision and what impact it could have on students.

"Is it possible that some children may learn a mindset of division, intolerance, even hate, rather than one of inclusion, acceptance and love?" asked one man.

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