Vaccine policy at various levels discussed by Sask. Rivers board

The Sask Rivers Education Centre/ Daily Herald File Photo

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education discussed the upcoming provincial plan to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for eligible students at school.

The discussion arose from Trustee Grant Gustafson’s policy committee update during Monday’s regular board meeting.

Director of Education Robert Bratvold said plans are being made by the ministries and health and education, but specifics aren’t yet available. The province has indicated during its twice-weekly COVID-19 press conferences that it plans to rollout the vaccines to eligible students before the end of the school year. Students aged 12-18 can receive the Pfizer vaccine.

“As soon as we (get details) we also have some plans to let our communities know, so I think that is something that is going to be coming,” Bratvold said.

“Those would just be voluntary they are not forced vaccines or anything,” Bratvold said.

There are already public health vaccine clinics in schools for things like the flu. The province has touted the high uptake from those clinics and said it expects the in-school COVID vaccine clinics to have similar success.

“This is a much larger and more intensive effort so it will take a little more careful planning and I think we won’t know the details around that for another week or two,” Bratvold explained.

Gustafson asked that the board direct Bratvold to ensure vaccine expectations are communicated to staff and students, and that policies for staff and student well-being, including vaccinations, be included in the division’s policy committee’s plans.

Bratvold said that would mean the development of administrative procedures to make sure the division follows through with its occupational health and safety requirements to keep staff and students safe.

“That guidance would (consist of) information and encouragement. There won’t be any sort of mandated vaccines,” he said.

“That is not something that was indicated as preferable, so not something that we will move towards either.”

Bratvold disagreed that a policy was needed. He said statements and administrative procedures should be enough.

“The message provincially was to be careful. The conversation didn’t seem to lean towards mandating or requiring vaccines,” he said.

The province is encouraging school divisions to set out administrative procedures regarding vaccine guidance under its occupational health and safety obligations. Employers have to provide a safe working environment under those obligations.

The board has directed its trustees and student trustees to put forward any policy suggestions by May 21.