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Catholic school division considers rapid screening COVID-19 tests

Mandatory rapid screen program different than a mandatory vaccination program, says associate superintendent of human resources
MVT stock COVID-19

OLDS - Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) is exploring options to meet the provincial government’s recent call for school authorities to develop policies requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests for staff, including teachers, say officials.

Ryan Ledene is the associate superintendent of human resources with the the 11,000-student division, which includes schools in Olds and Innisfail. 

“We are exploring some things right now,” Ledene told The Albertan. “We are putting together some ideas about doing a mandatory rapid screen program. It’s a little bit different than a mandatory vaccination program.

“We are basically looking at a model where we would screen all employees using rapid tests once or twice a week and the only way you could be exempt from that would be to be fully vaccinated.”

On Oct. 5 the government said it was “strongly encouraging” school divisions to put in place policies requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests for teachers, staff and visitors to schools.

Asked when the program might be in place, Ledene said, “We’ve got to work through our board and make sure that the board has heard all of the ideas and thoughts because there are quite a few parameters that we have to make decisions on, like who pays for the tests and how the tests are administered.

“And then of course if we are going to say that people have to be fully vaccinated and we, say, decided to charge any employee for testing, we’d want to make sure that we give employees time to get vaccinated fully before we initiated some parts of it. There are lots of things to decide yet.”

The program would be for employees, not students, he noted.

The RDCRS board of trustees doesn’t have a meeting scheduled until the end of month, although trustees could call a special meeting before that to hear details of any proposed plan.

“We (administration) are getting everything in order at our end to share what we have and then the board will decide when they want to meet and if they want to move that (program) ahead or not,” he said.

Several school divisions in the province, including Calgary and Edmonton Public boards, have already implement mandatory vaccination requirements for staff. 

The Chinook’s Edge School Division, which has school across this region, is gathering information on the matter and will be reporting back to trustees, said superintendent Kurt Sacher.  

Dan Singleton

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