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Oct 23
Surrey Board of Education continues to discuss a potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all K-12 staff

Over the past few weeks, the Surrey Board of Education has been reviewing implications of a potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all K-12 staff and whether this mandate is necessary for employees of the Surrey School District. The Board feels strongly that vaccines are critical in ending this pandemic, but they also recognize the Board's responsibility to their employees.

"We're approaching this in a thoughtful and careful manner," said Terry Allen, Vice-Chair of the Surrey Board of Education. "We have had an opportunity to follow the provincial process, to hear from our Medical Health Officer, to consider the available research and consult with our partners to hear all perspectives. We also continue to gather information on the provincial direction from the Ministry of Education and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association on this important public health and labour relations issue."

Last week the Surrey Board of Education met with Fraser Health's Medical Health Officer to review recent data from schools in the Fraser Health region and discuss the potential impact that a mandate may have on those numbers. In this meeting, the Board gathered the pros and cons of any potential mandate.  

"We were informed that the Surrey/White Rock area already has high vaccination rates for those that are currently eligible," says Allen. "And while a vaccine mandate for staff could increase vaccine coverage within the school setting, there would not be a significant impact on the number exposures since the vast majority of cases in schools right now are students who are ineligible to be vaccinated."

The Board has also reviewed the Ministry of Education's K-12 Sector Guidelines for Vaccination Policies, which was released on Friday. The document, which was developed by an advisory committee comprising of provincial and sector representatives, outlines steps that boards should be taking as they consider this issue given the complexities of such a decision.

"Our Board recognizes the value of getting vaccinated and we encourage everyone that is eligible to get immunized, but we also need to consider, given our high vaccination rates and our high confidence in the safety of our schools, whether a mandate of this nature would be beneficial for our district and would actually achieve the outcomes we desire," says Allen.

The Board of Education continues to consult with the Ministry of Education and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association to better understand provincial direction and the implications of a mandate from an employer perspective. 

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