Premier John Horgan recently stated the province is working with school districts on deciding whether or not to implement a vaccination policy in BC grade schools.

Last Thursday, Horgan said mandates are a last resort, but he’s already heard support for the policy from both the BC Teachers Federation and CUPE, the largest body of people in the K-12 system.

“We need to make sure that the province school districts, which are dually elected and have authority and responsibility when it comes to their staff are all having a say in how we proceed,” Horgan stated on Thursday.

He added the province needs to recognize all 60 school districts are separate entities.

School District 57 Board Chair, Sharel Warrington says currently many discussions about the topic are happening among stakeholders.

“At this point, we’re waiting to hear from the advisory committee that is meeting with representatives from the BC Teachers Federation, CUPE, the Teachers Association, the Employers Association, the First Nations steering committee is on that committee and there are other school leadership associations that are on that advisory committee,” she said.

Warrington says the advisory committee is working to develop some guidelines and policy frameworks that could ensure there is consistency across the entire school sector if vaccines become mandatory.

“We’re waiting now to hear what that framework would be and it would include the legal ramifications, contractual ramifications, operational factors and this would be very important to have before any decision is made,” she added.

She noted that this is a very difficult position for the school district to be in, and historically, any pandemic-related health policies that were implemented were a result of communication with Northern Health and were supported by BC’s Ministry of Education.

Warrington added the situation is also complicated because of the low rates of vaccination uptake in the north, and if the decision was placed on the shoulders of the board, there would be mixed reactions from parents and faculty members.

“I think some would support a mandatory vaccination and others would not. As a member of an elected body, we know that there will always be different positions on these kinds of issues. Anything that’s mandated is always a very challenging thing for any elected representative to do, so this would be another very significant challenging decision to have to make,” she stated.

Proof of vaccination is already required on BC post-secondary school campuses.

Thousands of BC workers in many sectors are now required to get vaccinated, including all public servants, BC Hydro employees, and long-term and acute care health care workers. 

Recently the province also extended the mandatory mask policy to apply to children 5+.