Toronto Catholic School Board says unvaccinated staff not doing rapid tests will be banned


Unvaccinated teachers at Toronto Catholic Council face suspension without pay if they fail to participate in mandatory COVID-19 rapid testing and as of Monday non-compliant employees will be barred from access to council property .

The move comes after the province demanded that school board employees get vaccinated or take rapid antigen tests twice a week and report negative results before entering a school or school board.

At the Toronto Catholic District School Board, it’s unclear how many staff did not complete the tests, which can be done at home with the kits provided. But the board has sent letters warning people to comply – or prove they are fully vaccinated – otherwise they will be suspended without pay.

“Given the recent implementation of these letters, we cannot confirm the exact number (issued),” TCDSB spokeswoman Shazia Vlahos said. “Experience shows that the majority of employees choose to comply with our policy. “

“As of Monday, October 18, 2021, non-compliant employees will suffer consequences and will not be allowed to enter any TCDSB property until they demonstrate compliance,” she said in a statement. -mail.

The board has sent out regular reminders encouraging employees to disclose their immunization status and meet non-immunization requirements.

At the end of the summer, the province asked all publicly funded boards to implement an immunization disclosure policy (which requires staff to prove they are fully immunized), to provide a documented medical exemption or watch an educational video on the benefits of the vaccine. These policies were fully implemented on September 27, including testing requirements.

“Every unvaccinated educator and staff member must perform rapid antigen tests twice a week, otherwise they are not allowed into Ontario schools,” said Caitlin Clark, spokesperson for the Minister of Education Stephen Lecce.

“We expect absolute compliance with this directive, as approved by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”

At TCDSB, there are 13,165 employees, including teachers, administrators and support staff. As of September 30, approximately 76% (9,992 people) said they were fully vaccinated, 9% (1,166 people) were not and 15% (2,007 people) had not yet responded. The board believes that most of the people who did not respond are causal staff and are not actively working at TCDSB, but are still on the staff list.

Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated or has not disclosed their vaccination status should have a rapid test regularly.

The local union representing Catholic elementary teachers in Toronto says some members have already been suspended.

“Some reluctantly or under duress complied after a day or two of suspension without pay… Some are still at home without pay,” said Julie Altomare-Di Nunzio, president of Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers, which has more than 4 000 teachers. members. “It has been very, very stressful (for these members). “

The reasons for not complying vary. Some believe the tests violate their privacy rights, others worry about who can access test results, and a few are vaccinated but do not want to disclose it.

Last week, the Toronto Catholic Council launched an app that allows staff to upload photos of negative test results and asked them to submit previous tests. Before that, he couldn’t know who was performing the tests. But the board realized that some teachers weren’t because they didn’t collect the test kits from school.

Pete McKay, leader of the local union representing teachers at Catholic high schools in Toronto, knows of a half-dozen members who received letters from the board, giving them a few days to comply or they would be suspended without pay.

“Some people comply quickly when they realize the financial impact it would have on them. Others are more inclined to hold out as long as they can, ”said the president of the Toronto secondary unit, which has about 2,500 members. He doesn’t know anyone who has been suspended.

“We are never happy that a teacher is without a salary and wish there was a better way to handle this,” he said. “However, we have received legal advice that the policy is valid if implemented in a reasonable manner. Additionally, we want all workers to have a safe workplace and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is a great concern. ”

Monitoring teachers and test scores is “unfortunate,” he said, but “if it helps maintain a safe workplace it could be beneficial.”

McKay is concerned app information will be shared with principals and says union is filing grievances alleging privacy violations over the attestation and because the board provided principals with test kits to distribute to teachers.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, the union representing Catholic teachers in the province, supports mandatory vaccinations for staff and students. But when it comes to any alleged non-compliance with immunization policies, he is legally bound to represent members facing administrative suspension or disciplinary action.

“The association examines each case against its facts to determine what action, if any, OECTA could take to defend Catholic teacher members,” said Barb Dobrowolski, President of OECTA.

Some school boards have gone beyond provincial requirements by requiring staff to be fully immunized, including the Toronto Public Council, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. By November 1, all Toronto District School Board staff must receive their covid jabs.

When asked why TCDSB hadn’t made vaccinations mandatory, it responded in an email that its plan to reopen had been worked out with advice from Toronto Public Health and the Department of Education.

“The health and safety of our students and staff has always guided the board’s back-to-school plan.

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