Student athletes take their shot

·2 min read

Any student age 12 and up must now have the COVID vaccine to continue playing organized indoor sports.

Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton jointly introduced the new rules last month. They’ll apply to students in the Lambton Kent and St. Clair Catholic District School Boards.

“Across Ontario sports activities have been associated with a number of outbreaks and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby.

The new rules further cover coaches and instructors. Spectators are also required to be vaccinated to watch indoor games.

Colby says the changes bring the area more in line with neighbours such as Windsor or London. “Almost all health units in Ontario have issued similar letters of instruction to plug the holes in the provincial guidelines,” he says.

Both school board directors noted this is a public health directive and not their own, but they will be enforcing it. The vaccine rules only apply to extracurricular sports and not gym classes.

As for staff vaccination rates John Howitt and Scott Johnson say they’re enthused by the numbers.

“We are very pleased that over 90 per cent of our staff are fully vaccinated and those that aren’t are doing the good work to submit the negative tests on a weekly basis,” says Johnson of the Catholic board.

“We are also very pleased with our staff who are predominantly in contract positions and in front of students the majority of the time being well over 92 per cent, which is higher than the community,” adds Howitt of the public board.

But they each acknowledged there’s a staffing area which still needs work.

“We would like to see our occasional and temporary staff rates increase. They kind of align with the community right now,” says Howitt. Vaccine rates in these groups, which include substitute teachers and bus drivers, are around 10 to 15 percentage points lower than contract staff in both boards.

“Many of our occasional staff are retired teachers who are not entirely committed to working a great deal of time… I think that’s one of the challenges we have where they might be less motivated to be fully vaccinated because they might be less motivated to work,” says Johnson on the disparity.

Howitt agreed but still hopes for an upward shift. “We believe strongly in our staff being vaccinated as they are exposed to children who are not able to be vaccinated. We are pleased they are doing the antigen tests while they are not fully vaccinated however,” says Howitt.

There’s been nine COVID outbreaks in Chatham schools since the new academic year began. All had been resolved until last weekend when two new ones were declared at Thamesville Area Central Public School and Chatham Christian High School. Both outbreaks had two cases Nov. 1.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting