Ottawa's largest school board mandates vaccines for teachers, staff

At a Wednesday evening meeting, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board voted to require its staff, including teachers, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

First dose needed by Sept. 30, although some exemptions permitted

The vaccination issue was on the table at Tuesday night's meeting of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, but proceedings were adjourned before it could be approved. On Wednesday night, it was passed unanimously. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ottawa's largest school board will require its teachers and other staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) held a meeting Wednesday evening to finally put the issue to bed after failing to resolve the matter at a lengthy five-hour-long meeting the night before.

According the unanimously passed recommendation, staff will be required to have their first dose by Sept. 30. The second dose would be required as soon as medically allowed.  

Exceptions will be provided workers who are legally entitled to one, but anyone who receives such accommodations will need to undergo regular COVID-19 testing.  More exact details of the vaccine protocol will be determined no later than Sept. 30 by OCDSB staff, in collaboration with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and union groups.

At Tuesday's evening, the board voted to require masks for kindergartners, as well as vaccines for volunteers. 

Those changes were on the agenda of a meeting on Aug. 24, but board trustees didn't have time for a debate

All Ottawa boards mandate masks for kindergartners 

The OCDSB was the last of the four Ottawa school boards to mandate masks for kindergartners. 

The motion passed unanimously and without prior debate from trustees.  

As OPH supports the move, board staff were prepared to implement the safety measure for students in junior and senior kindergarten, despite the province only requiring masking for students as young as Grade 1. 

Evans, who brought both the mask and vaccination motions, also had several others on the agenda. Her motion to require volunteers, such as coaches, to be vaccinated was also passed as a directive to schools for the 2021-2022 year. 

OCDSB trustee Lyra Evans brought six motions focused on stricter health measures to the OCDSB emergency meeting Tuesday evening. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

"I understand that people don't want to get a vaccine for one reason or another, but when their choices put other people at risk, I think that's the point at which we must step in," Evans said. 

The board did not get around to discussing mandatory vaccination for students, a medical education policy for students or the continued provision of medical-grade masks to staff.

Some schools to be used as polling stations

A motion that would require anyone using school property to be vaccinated was given to board staff to rework and it will be brought back to trustees at a meeting on Sept. 14. 

While schools aren't generally open to community users at this time, the chair asked about their use as polling stations in the upcoming federal election on Sept. 20. 

The board's superintendent of finance Michael Carson said fewer schools than ever before will be used in the election. 

Elections Canada will be using about 12 secondary schools, which meet the safety standards suggested by Ontario's chief medical officer of health Kieran Moore. Those guidelines include having a separate entrance and washroom for voters and government staff. 

Vimy Ridge Public School in Findlay Creek is the one elementary school that will be used, as Carson said it's the only public building in the riding and therefore polling needs to be held there.

With files from Joseph Tunney

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