Vaccine mandate coming to Yellowknife Education District No. 1

·2 min read
Matthew Miller, president of the NWT Teachers' Association, in August 2020. (Kate Kyle/CBC - image credit)
Matthew Miller, president of the NWT Teachers' Association, in August 2020. (Kate Kyle/CBC - image credit)

Staff of Yellowknife Education District No.1 (YK1) will soon have to provide proof of vaccination.

The policy will take effect on Nov. 30 — the same date as the territorial government's vaccine policy.

The YK1 Board of Trustees passed the motion on Tuesday.

Cindi Vaselenek, superintendent of education, is in the process of drafting a vaccine administrative procedure outlining the criteria, deadlines and logistics for submitting vaccine documentation.

She couldn't say exactly when the procedure would be complete, but she's hopeful to have a completed document by the end of October.

In the meantime, an email was sent to all YK1 staff on Oct. 13, providing notice of the decision and instructing staff "if you are not double vaccinated, you can plan accordingly."

The email notes that medical exemptions and accommodations for exceptional circumstances will be made on a case-by-case basis.

School procedure expected to mirror territorial government's

While Vaselenek could not comment on what would happen if employees were not fully vaccinated, Matthew Miller, president of the NWT Teachers' Association, expects the vaccine policy to mirror that of the territorial government.

In the Government of the Northwest Territories' policy, Miller points to a section called "other measures."

If a person is unvaccinated, has only one shot of the vaccine or does not submit proof of vaccination, they'll be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and to complete a COVID-19 test up to three times a week, Miller said. (Read the full policy here.)

"If they're not willing to do that, then they would be placed on unpaid leave."

Asked if he expects a similar policy to come into place for students eligible for vaccination, Miller said he didn't have that information but sees the situation as "a boat with a bunch of holes in it."

"If there are 30 holes in the boat, and the teachers are one of those holes and we've now vaccinated a teacher, where is the real threat coming from for our students and our staff? ... That's not something that currently I've been in discussions on, but I think it would make sense that everyone would be vaccinated to make sure that there's a safe workplace for students and staff."

Miller also expects the Yellowknife Catholic Schools, which is also among the NWT Teachers' Association's bargaining groups, will follow suit.

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