Manitoba

Nearly all Louis Riel School Division staff fully vaccinated, division says

As of Thursday, about 96 per cent of permanent and term employees in the Louis Riel School Division had confirmed they are double vaccinated.

96% have verified they are immunized against COVID-19; division hopes to boost student rates through policy

A sign outside Collège Jeanne-Sauvé, which is part of the Louis Riel School Division, in Winnipeg on May 1, 2021. The division is moving forward with a vaccination requirement for students 12 and up who wish to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. (Ron Boileau/Radio-Canada)

A school division in Winnipeg says nearly every staff member is now vaccinated against COVID-19, and plans are in the works to get more eligible students immunized soon.

As of Thursday, about 96 per cent of permanent and term employees in the Louis Riel School Division had confirmed they are double vaccinated.

Division superintendent Christian Michalik said those numbers are reassuring.

"It's great to see that we have a staff community here that is protecting itself and others," said Michalik.

Just over two per cent of LRSD staff are in the process of getting fully immunized, and just under two per cent are opting to undergo routine testing rather than be vaccinated.

Michalik said this week about 40 unvaccinated employees were told they would have to start getting tested and bringing proof of a negative result to work with them. At that prompting, he said some have now decided to get vaccinated.

"People are changing their mind, for sure," he said. "Of course, that is the idea, that is the hope is that we are on a journey, and my hope is that anyone who can get vaccinated gets vaccinated."

The division will have rapid tests in its office soon, said Michalik, but for now unvaccinated staff will have to get their own tests done three times per week.

As for eligible students 12 and up, Michalik said the division is working on a new policy that should boost immunization rates.

He hopes by next month to have a system in place that mandates vaccination for those who want to participate in sports and extracurricular activities. The division first wants to consult with parents before moving forward with that plan.

LRSD was one of the first divisions to indicate plans last month to mandate vaccinations among staff.

Not long after, the province shared its own plans to mandate vaccination for school staff and employees in many other provincial sectors.

"In late August when we learned public health orders would come at some point in support of what we were doing, that just emboldened us to get on with it and do the work," Michalik said.

Other divisions CBC News contacted did not seem as far along in the vaccination verification process as LRSD.

A Winnipeg School Division spokesperson said in a statement the division is following protocol provided by the Manitoba School Boards Association for verifying vaccination status of staff. The division hopes to have the first round of verifications done by Sept. 17. 

A spokesperson with the Pembina Trails School Division said the same.

The Seven Oaks School Division said staff are currently uploading their vaccination information to their own personnel files.

In an email to staff this week, Garden Valley School Division superintendent Janice Krahn said the division stands by employees' decisions to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing.

The letter goes on to outline for immunized staff how they can go about providing valid photo identification along with proof of vaccination, be it in digital or physical forms.

Teachers, practicum students, bus drivers, support and custodial staff, as well as child-care workers, health-care workers, people working in jails and more must be fully immunized by Oct. 16 or submit to regular testing under provincial health order.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryce Hoye

Reporter

Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology and interests in courts, climate, health and more. He has produced episodes for CBC's Quirks & Quarks and Front Burner. He is the Prairie rep for OutCBC. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.

With files from Susan Magas and Meaghan Ketcheson

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