Unvaccinated Ontario school staff required to take two COVID-19 tests per week

Unvaccinated Ontario teachers will need to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week, according to a memo from the Ministry of Education.

Testing kits will be deployed to school boards by Sept. 20

Unvaccinated school staff in Ontario will need to provide negative COVID-19 test results at least two times per week. (Robert Short/CBC)

Unvaccinated Ontario teachers and school staff will need to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week, according to a memo from the Ministry of Education.

The memo, sent by Deputy Education Minister Nancy Naylor to directors of education and secretaries and treasurers of school authorities, sets out the testing component of the mandatory vaccine disclosure policy announced in August by Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

At the time of Moore's announcement, the Ministry of Education said those not vaccinated against COVID-19 would be required to undergo frequent rapid antigen testing at least once a week, which could escalate to two to three times a week.

For now, Naylor's memo says, unvaccinated individuals will need to "provide verification of negative test results at least two times per week as an added measure to protect schools from the risk of COVID-19."

Rapid antigen screening kits were being deployed "in most cases" to school boards, with a target of having all supplies received by Sept. 20.

Prior to that, the government is authorizing pharmacies to provide publicly funded COVID-19 rapid antigen testing for those eligible, effective Tuesday, Sept. 7.

Work is underway to introduce an app to track and verify testing results.

"Thank you for your efforts to comply with these requirements, and your ongoing efforts to keep students, staff and our communities safe," Naylor's memo concluded.

On Aug. 25, the Toronto District School Board passed a motion to create a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination procedure for all TDSB staff, trustees and visitors to disclose and provide proof of their vaccination status.

Those who are not vaccinated are "required to attend mandatory education on the benefits of vaccination." 

The move led TDSB chair Alexander Brown last week to ask the Ontario government to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for eligible students at public schools.