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Catholic school division postpones vaccination decision

RDCRS trustees voted unanimously to indefinitely postpone decision regarding possible vaccination and rapid screening policy
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INNISFAIL - More than a month after the provincial government said it was encouraging school divisions to develop policies that would require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test for teachers and staff, the Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) board of trustees has decided it needs more information before making a decision on the matter.

At its recent regularly scheduled meeting, trustees voted unanimously to indefinitely postpone the decision regarding a possible vaccination and rapid screening policy for the division. 

Kim Pasula is the chairman of 11,000-student RDCRS, which is based in Red Deer. The division includes schools in Innisfail and Olds.

“The motion was to postpone the decision regarding vaccinations and a rapid screening program indefinitely,” Pasula told The Albertan. “Before we can make a prudent decision regarding vaccinations and testing, the board needs more information. I think this is the best course of action for the school division.

“It may come before the board on Nov. 30 if administration has its report prepared in time or it could come back at a later date. That remains to be seen. It’s up to the administration to gather information and then let us know the report is ready to go.”

RDCRS trustees have instructed administration to create a report addressing a number of questions and inquires and make a follow-up presentation.

In the report, administration will address issues such as medical exemptions, discretionary leave, unpaid leave, testing outside of assignable/instructional time, Freedom of Information, Alberta School Board COVID-19 vaccination policies, appeal process, contractors, antibody tests, supply of tests, costs of test, insurance and process monitoring, the division said.

Pasula explained that under Robert’s Rules of Order, which the board follows in its meetings, when postponing a decision it must either be postponed until a specific date or indefinitely.

“Because we are not sure exactly how long administration is going to take to answer the questions and concerns that the trustees raised, it made sense to postpone it indefinitely,” he said.

On Oct. 5 the provincial government said it was encouraging school authorities to develop policies that require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for teachers, staff and anyone who enters a school.

Asked if he is concerned with the current timeline to have a RDCRS decision made, Pasula said, “Given that it has landed on the table of an educational institution, we need to ensure that we have the information we need before we can make a proper decision.”

At the Oct. 26 RDCRS board meeting, a draft administrative procedure was presented to trustees for information. 

That procedure would require all division employees, including teachers, to be fully vaccinated on or before Dec. 31, provide negative rapid test results or have approved exemptions.

“Our role as the board of trustees is to determine what the policy is going to be, and once the superintendent knows what the policy is, then they go ahead and develop the administrative procedure,” he said.

“Our role will be to determine whether or not we are proceeding with a vaccination and rapid screening program. Details on how that would actually be implemented amongst our staff, that would be determined by the superintendent (through an administrative procedure).”

A number of school boards in the province have already adopted vaccination and rapid screen policies. For example, Calgary Board of Education adopted its official policy last week, requiring all staff to be fully vaccinated or provide negative tests or medical exemptions by Dec. 17.

School vaccination policies do not cover students, who cannot legally be denied access to schools based on immunization status.

Dan Singleton

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