Leadership of the Kenora Catholic District School Board is pushing the Ontario government to mandate that all education staff should receive the COVID-19 vaccine to prevent further outbreaks, school closures and disruptions to in-person learning.

In an open letter to Premier Doug Ford, MPP Greg Rickford, the Ministry of Education and more, Board Chair Teresa Gallik says the provincial government must act quickly to implement a policy to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all education staff, school visitors and anyone working with students in schools.

“Our first priority as a school board is protecting the health and safety of all of our students, staff and families,” said Gallik, in an interview with Q104 on Monday. “We want to keep our classes open for in-person learning, and we want to see a reduction in COVID-19 related disruptions to learning that affected much of the last school year.”

On August 13, Canada’s federal government announced it will require vaccination for all federal public service workers by the end of September, with further mandatory vaccinations coming for federally-regulated air, rail and marine transportation service sectors by the end of October.

The government is asking all school boards to put in place their own immunization disclosure policies, but Gallik says they'd like to see vaccines fully mandated and equal across the province, an idea that’s been supported by multiple school boards across Ontario as well as the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association.

“A mandatory vaccination policy should not be left for school boards to develop individually. It should be a provincial strategy applied consistently across the education sector,” adds Gallik.

As it stands, the KCDSB does not know just how many staff have received their COVID-19 vaccines. However, all educators have been asked to confidently disclose their vaccination status to school boards, who will then be reporting that data to the Ministry of Education. Each board will be required to disclose their percentage of staff that have been vaccinated publicly as of September 15.

“We really, really want to make sure that all of our teachers and staff are vaccinated, especially because our children under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated. The evidence is clear. Vaccination is the most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19,” finishes Gallik.

Kenora Catholic’s open letter comes just over a week in to the return to school and in-person learning. A COVID-19 case was reported at Pope John Paul II School on September 5, and the classroom was able to reopen as of September 13.

All students and staff should use the Government of Ontario’s school screening tool daily before attending school.