Prioritize vaccines for school staff: OCDSB chair

·2 min read
Prioritize vaccines for school staff: OCDSB chair
A custodian cleans a teacher's desk in Des Moines, Iowa. The chair of Ottawa's largest school board wants the province to prioritize vaccinating education workers.
A custodian cleans a teacher's desk in Des Moines, Iowa. The chair of Ottawa's largest school board wants the province to prioritize vaccinating education workers.

(Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press - image credit)

The chair of Ottawa's largest school board wants the province to vaccinate education workers "sooner rather than later" to help keep schools open.

In a letter to the ministers of education and health, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board's Lynn Scott said the province should do everything it can to keep staff safe, especially those working with students in classrooms.

"Education workers have worked hard to keep our schools safe using the safety precautions available. The vaccine represents a new level of protection and education workers need that protection," Scott wrote in a letter dated Feb. 16, and shared by the board on Tuesday.

"The emergence of more contagious strains of the virus adds more uncertainty to our efforts to keep schools open and prevent further disruptions in our children's education."

Ontario recently added adults over age 80 living outside care homes, some first responders and all Indigenous adults to the first phase of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Education workers are part of the second phase, expected to last from April to July.

Scott said in an interview that knowing staff will be vaccinated "sooner rather than later" would help both morale and the school board's plan for "a much more normal" 2021-22 school year.

She said she hasn't yet heard back from the province.

WATCH | Ottawa school board wants a stronger commitment:

Minister says he'll advocate

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in an emailed statement to CBC News that teachers are a part of "the next phase" of the province's COVID-19 immunization plan.

"We know how critical education is in the lives of Ontario children and their parents. We also recognize how we must take every action possible to improve the safety of our schools," said Lecce.

"I continue to advocate the importance of all school, child care and education staff being vaccinated."

The Canadian Teachers' Federation has been making a national pitch to get educators vaccinated. On Monday, Ontario gave local health units some flexibility over how they vaccinate residents, as long as they follow its priority list.

Ottawa has given about 46,600 COVID-19 vaccine doses in just over two months, as of Monday, which included supply interruptions.