The Toronto District School Board will keep on hundreds of staff members who missed the weekend deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying they cannot find enough replacement workers.
The board -- Canada’s largest, with some 41,600 employees and almost a quarter of a million students -- said 290 of the 620 unvaccinated staff will not immediately be placed on unpaid administrative leave. Meanwhile, the board will continue to try to fill the positions.
“Like other school boards across Ontario, we are seeing lower levels of occasional/casual staff taking available jobs,” the TDSB said in a note to parents and guardians on Monday. “In addition, we know that the absence of some staff would have a serious impact on the ability of some schools to maintain the safety and well-being of students.”
It said most staff members being kept on temporarily are school-based workers such as special needs assistants, early childhood educators and lunchroom supervisors, who often supervise students including those with additional needs or provide safety or health support.
“We know this is an incredibly challenging time for the staff impacted by this procedure, but we are doing all we can to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff,” it said.
The board had already extended its original Nov. 1 deadline for staff vaccinations.
The TDSB has taken a harder line on vaccinations for its staff than Ontario’s provincial government, which insists jabs will be voluntary for both staff and students.
Schools in Ontario require, and in some cases administer, vaccinations for a string of childhood diseases includes diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, meningitis, and whooping cough, but there is no indication that COVID-19 will be added to that list.
The board said all unvaccinated staff are required to conduct three rapid antigen tests a week, as per provincial policy.
Morgan Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Canada's National Observer