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Editorial: SD48 made the wrong call on COVID-19 vaccinations

'What message does this send our kids?'
The Sea to Sky school board offices in downtown Squamish.

The Sea to Sky board of education made the wrong call not mandating vaccinations for staff.

The decision was made by trustees in-camera on Nov. 11.

When asked if anyone wanted to speak to it when the motion was announced in the public meeting, none did.

Board chair Rebecca Barley cited the region’s high vaccination rates as part of its rationale for the decision.

Provincially 91% of those eligible have had one dose of the vaccine and 97% in the Howe Sound region, she said. Provincially 87% of those eligible had two doses of the vaccine.

Barley also said that other districts were also refraining from mandating vaccines for their staff.

“In making this decision, the board carefully considered all implications of a vaccine mandate for staff, including information and guidance of public health officials. In doing so, the board reviewed the K to 12 Sector Guidelines for Vaccination Policies developed by the Ministry of Education, BC Public School Employers’ Association and the provincial advisory group,” reads a news release from the school district about the decision.

The school district’s Marilyn Caldwell told the board the district has heard from Vancouver Coastal Health that cases remain low in corridor schools and there’s been “no transmission” within the schools.

She said that cases in schools have been from community events, such as birthday parties and Thanksgiving dinners, not from within the schools.

Fair enough. So far, the car hasn’t crashed, but does that mean we should not wear seat belts?

It doesn’t seem fair that adults are calling for, for example, mandatory vaccine passports at Whistler’s Vail Resorts and then collectively shrugging our shoulders when those with our children every day don’t have to get the jab.

What message does this send our kids?

“You matter, but not as much as an adult’s right to put him or herself before you?”

“Do as we say, not as we do?”

“See what your buddies are doing and then do that, regardless of what is right?”

We know not all employees in our schools agree with this decision.

A “disappointed” school district employee — who did not want to be named for fear of retribution — told The Chief, “to risk the health of our children is... irresponsible and reckless.”

The employee suspects the “reasoning behind this decision, regardless of the talking points, is of a political nature.”

The voices of those opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations, though a minority, are loud and can cause a lot of grief for administrators and employers.

And losing any staff or faculty right now over the issue would be a royal pain, as we have seen in the health care sector.

In fairness, this should not have been a decision downloaded onto boards; the provincial government should have mandated vaccinations for all school employees and taken that localized pressure off school districts, but here we are.

Our school board trustees took the easy road out.

As the local employee said: “When it comes to our children, it is our responsibility to do everything that we can to protect them in every possible way.”

This decision doesn’t live up to that.

Here's a poll The Squamish Chief conducted on this topic to find out what readers thought.