British Columbia

Surrey, New Westminster boards of education confirm vaccines for staff won't be mandatory

The Surrey and New Westminster boards of education have confirmed they will not be requiring COVID-19 vaccines for staff members, becoming the first in the province to do so.

Boards cited high vaccination rates, concerns over losing teachers and staff as reasons

There is currently no mandate from the province for B.C. teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (Vitaly Timkiv/The Associated Press)

The Surrey and New Westminster Boards of Education have confirmed they will not be making COVID-19 vaccines for staff members mandatory.

There is currently no provincial requirement for B.C. teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, though the B.C. Teachers' Federation has said it would support one.

The written statement from the Surrey Board of Education says that the Surrey and White Rock areas have high community vaccination rates, and that in-school transmission continues to be low.

Terry Allen, a trustee and vice chairperson of the Surrey Board of Education, said the board wrestled with the decision, and took into consideration concerns about losing teachers and staff if a mandate were brought in.

"Even if we were to lose 300 teachers or 300 staff because of this mandate, it would have a huge negative impact on the classroom and in fact some classrooms wouldn't be able to function," he said.

"We have a responsibility to everybody. We know at this point in time, based on evidence and based on health advice, that we're still keeping the students and staff and general public as safe as we can."

The New Westminster Board of Education statement announcing it will not be implementing a mandate also cites high vaccination rates in the area and says schools can operate safely without a vaccination rate of 100 per cent.

It also said that its decision factored in concerns about staffing and privacy concerns for staff.

In B.C., vaccines are currently mandated for health-care workers, public service employees, and supervisors of youth activities, including sport coaches.

With files from Yvette Brend

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