Rainbow Board requests province make all education workers, staff, student vaccinations a provincial priority

SUDBURY – The Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) is calling on the province to have all education workers and staff vaccinated on a priority basis in phase two of the COVID-19 pandemic public health process. 

“If it is being looked at to have teachers and students in class by September 7 (2021), they and all education staff employees, education assistants and everyone involved—school secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, child care workers—everyone has to be vaccinated by mid-August,” stated school board trustee Margaret Stringer, at a board meeting last week. 

Trustee Stringer pointed out, “September is not far off, and for all our people in education to be back in school and class they need to be vaccinated by mid-August.” She proposed a motion be supported by the board to write a letter to the minister of education, public health, teacher federations, other school boards and members of opposition parties requesting their support as well. 

Trustee Dena Morrison indicated that she would support the proposed motion. “I agree with Trustee Stringer, this is really important. My hope is that students, teachers, everyone involved in the education system that work in or with schools need to be vaccinated by the fall. All education workers as well as students need to be protected.”  

Trustee Linda Debassige said, “I think we need to support public health (Sudbury and Districts) in trying to advocate for a 28-day limit on receiving the first vaccine and getting their second vaccine. I sit at several tables and Dr. Penny Sutcliffe (medical officer of health for the health unit) has been advocating for this so that the new school year will not be disrupted.” 

“I support all education workers, employees, teachers, students, everyone involved being prioritized for vaccines,” said Trustee Debassige. As chief of the M’Chigeeng First Nation she pointed out that in respect to the vaccinations, M’Chigeeng included all educators at Manitoulin Secondary School for vaccinations that have already taken place in M’Chigeeng. 

It was suggested by board chair Doreen Dewar that the letter could also be sent to the premier as well as minister of education.

“I’m quite comfortable with this,” said Trustee Morrison.

Chair Dewar read the proposed motion, that RDSB write a letter to the premier, minister of education, and copy Public Health Sudbury and Districts, federations and member school boards, ministry of health and opposition that all education workers receive vaccine on a priority basis.

“I will not be supporting the motion,” said Trustee Anita Gibson. “I support the vaccination of all education workers.” However, “we look to public health as our lead on this. I have complete faith in Dr. Sutcliffe that if this needed to be a priority right now, she would have directed this. That said, I hope everyone will be able to get vaccinated as soon as possible.” 

Norm Blaseg, director of education for RDSB told the board, “we meet with public health weekly, every Friday morning with Dr. Sutcliffe or other directors from the health unit. They are advocating for our education workers being vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Trustee Judy Kosmerly noted, “what we are doing is advocating for all education workers being recognized as a priority for the vaccines. We’re actually supporting the health unit to have this done.” 

The board trustees voted in favour of sending the letter to the province and other groups, except for Trustee Gibson who opposed the motion.