Not all supply teachers included in first stage of school staff vaccine clinics

·3 min read
New Brunswick Teachers' Federation co-president Rick Cuming says the union has not been told exactly when all supply teachers will get the vaccine. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC - image credit)
New Brunswick Teachers' Federation co-president Rick Cuming says the union has not been told exactly when all supply teachers will get the vaccine. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC - image credit)

Not all substitute teachers are included in the first stage of school vaccinations, and it's not clear if they will get their first dose in time for the April 12 in-person high school start date.

According to provincial spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane, only "long-term" supply teachers qualify for vaccinations during the first round of clinics.

"Long-term supply assignment is one expected to last more than 20 work days," he said.

Jennifer Read, spokesperson for the Anglophone West School District, said that district defines long term as 20 work days based on the wording in the New Brunswick Teachers' Federation collective agreement.

She said in her district, there are 547 supply teachers on the approved list as of March 26, 2021. And 39 of them are considered long-term and qualify for the vaccine. The remainder will have to wait.

"However, it is important to note that not all are located in a high school setting," she said.

Meredith Caissie with Anglophone North School District said the district has 251 supply teachers, and just over 100 of those are on long-term supply assignment, once again defined as 20 or more work days. This is for the entire district, and includes all grade levels, she said.

Stephanie Patterson, spokesperson for Anglophone East School District, said a long term supply teacher in her district is "any supply teaching contract that is expected to exceed 10 consecutive schools days."

She said Anglophone East has 332 supply teachers, but did not say how many count as long-term and would be eligible for the vaccines.

Anglophone South School District spokesperson Jessica Hanlon said the district has approximately 410 supply teachers but does not have the number of those who are on long-term assignment.

Bus drivers were not included in the first round of vaccinations this week for high school staff in preparation for the full-time return to school on April 12.
Bus drivers were not included in the first round of vaccinations this week for high school staff in preparation for the full-time return to school on April 12.(Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Rick Cuming, co-president of the New Brunswick Teachers' Federation, said the union doesn't have details about exactly when all supply teachers will be vaccinated. He said overall, the clinics have been working well, and they've been well attended. And the decision to not include supply teachers "had to do with vaccine availability."

"That's what we're told," he said.

Cuming said he raised the issue with the department of education, "but they won't make commitment until they know exactly how many vaccines they have."

Will all teachers be vaccinated for April 12?

This week, 4,500 staff from high schools across the province received a COVID-19 vaccination, Macfarlane said. This includes teachers, support staff and long-term supply teachers.

However, bus drivers and other staff will have to wait for the second round, which currently has no set date.

"In the coming weeks, additional vaccination clinics will be available for staff in elementary and middle schools, including bus drivers and supply teachers, and for early childhood service providers and child-care staff," Macfarlane said.

He did not say if all supply teachers will be vaccinated in time for the April 12 high school in-person start date, but is hoping they will.

"Supply teachers are in multiple schools and multiple bubbles," he said.

Macfarlane said itinerant, supply and visiting professionals will be required to follow additional masking protocols when school starts up with full in person classes. According to new guidelines, these professionals will have to wear masks both inside and outside, while full-time staff can take off their masks outside if their zone is in the yellow phase.

Supply teacher demand

Rick Cuming says demand on supply teachers has increased since COVID-19 pandemic began. He said public health has been clear that people should stay home if they're experiencing any symptoms, and this means more shifts need to be covered.

"There has been a lot of demand for supply teachers," he said. "We're also concerned that there aren't enough supply teachers available."

He said covering off those gaps could create "immense work" for staff, making it more important to have vaccines ready for supply teachers.