In response to the latest public health order, Coast Mountains School District 82 (CMSD) said it will not be collecting vaccination status of its staff unless directed to do so by Northern Health’s Medical Health Officer (MHO).
The Jan. 17 Public Health Order issued by the province’s top doctor empowers regional health authorities to direct schools boards to collect information on the vaccination status of its staff.
The order is a bid to help health authorities gain data to analyze outbreak risks in schools and based on public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s clarification on Tuesday, employers need gather information only if asked to do so by their regional health authority.
At this point CMSD does not have a vaccination mandate for its employees and there have been no outbreaks reported by Northern Health in any of its schools spread across Terrace, Kitimat, Hazelton, Stewart and Kitwanga.
However, Hazelton Secondary School entered a ‘functional closure’ after winter break until Jan. 17, due to what the school district said was a staffing shortage caused by illness.
The Jan. 17 public health order is also about facilitating the school districts, who are the employers, to make the best determination about whether they need to have a vaccine mandate in that school district or not.
When asked if CMSD intends to move towards implementing a vaccine mandate in the near future, superintendent Janet Meyer said the school board is exploring its options and discussions are underway as to whether a mandate is feasible or not.
However, no conclusion has been reached yet and the school board will make an announcement when and if they decide, added Meyer.
“If we were to gather information, it would serve the board in this exploration process,” she said referring to the Jan.17 order.
That said, Meyer added, it was over to the local MHO and Northern Health to initiate that process.
As of Jan. 20, Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins confirmed that MHOs have not made any directives under the new order asking school districts to gather information.
“The information will be collected if the MHO, in consultation with a school district, makes a decision that they want to collect and understand that information,” said Collins in an email statement.
Northern Health also said they will continue to work with school districts to support their decisions around the vaccination status of school staff.