Prairie Rose School Division will join Medicine Hat Public School Division and Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education in enacting a COVID-19 vaccination policy. The decision was made during Tuesday’s public board meeting with the PRSD board voting 4-3 in favour of a policy.
Board chair Cathy Hogg (Ward 2), board vice-chair Lois Bedwell (Ward 1), Pam Cursons (Ward 3) and Patty Rooks (Ward 5) all voted in favour. Shauna Vanderspruit (Ward 3), Graeme Dennis (Ward 4) and Nancy Haraga (Ward 6) voted against.
The policy was raised at last month’s board meeting, but tabled in anticipation of the then upcoming election.
During Tuesday’s meeting, discussion about the policy went on for more than an hour, with trustees raising concerns over who will be impacted by the policy and the subsequent cost. Haraga questioned whether a vaccination policy was still necessary with the province’s declining number of cases.
“We’re still in a state of emergency,” said Hogg. “We need to protect our students and staff.”
It was noted the province’s Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, Health Minister Jason Copping and the Alberta Teachers Association recommended a vaccination policy for all schools in the province.
The policy, which will apply to staff working directly with students, will require either proof of full vaccination or regular COVID-19 testing. Bedwell pointed out that the policy was not mandatory.
“There is a choice,” she said.
A survey conducted by PRSD found of 238 teachers within the division, 77.73% were fully vaccinated with two shots or more, 6.3% were partially vaccinated with one shot and 15.97% were unvaccinated.
There is not currently a set date for when the policy will go into effect. A draft for the policy stated “reasonable timelines” would be determined.
Following the vote, Vanderspruit put forward a motion that the board write a letter to appropriate provincial government offices requesting they provide financial assistance to PRSD for any costs incurred due to the policy. She also motioned that the letter express frustration over school board trustees having to make decisions regarding health, a duty she feels should be the government’s.
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News