Bulletin – Provincial K-12 guidelines on vaccination policies

The Ministry of Education has released guidelines for school districts that might be considering implementing a vaccination policy. These guidelines build on the existing K-12 health and safety measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the schools and communities.

The K-12 Sector Guidelines for Vaccination Policies are online, and attached with this bulletin.

CUPE participated in the development of these guidelines, along with all other stakeholders in the K-12 sector.

This guidelines document is not a vaccination policy. It offers guidance for school districts that want to create a vaccination policy. It provides a roadmap to ensure that school districts respect privacy rules, legal requirements, consult with their employee groups and respect collective agreement rights.

Individual school districts can now decide whether they want to develop and implement a policy or not. The guidelines recommend school districts first attempt other measures to increase vaccination rates, in collaboration with ‘employee groups’ (i.e. CUPE, other unions), before exploring a vaccine policy.

The BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) is currently working to create a framework policy that could be adopted by school districts that want a vaccination policy. This would ensure consistency across the province so that there is not a patchwork of different approaches and standards.

CUPE continues to support vaccination as the best way to end the pandemic and protect everyone in the school system. CUPE is also focused on representing our members and protecting their rights within the bounds of the law, human rights legislation, privacy rules, and our collective agreements.

We will fight any unjust terminations and seek alternative accommodations wherever possible. It is our fundamental position that CUPE members who cannot be vaccinated for protected human rights reasons must be accommodated. CUPE is also continues to advocate for school districts to expand other safety measures that promote clean and healthy schools, such as rapid testing and daytime custodial services.

K-12 Sector Guidelines for Vaccination Policies

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Bulletin – K-12 workplace health & safety updates

Violence Prevention Toolkit

We’d like to thank everyone who took part in last month’s workshop on the new K-12 Violence Prevention Toolkit. We’d also thank panelists Tom McKenna, CUPE Occupational Health and Safety specialist, and Hans Loeffelholz, BCPSEA sector lead for OH&S, for their presentation on this vital resource.

A copy of the workshop presentation is attached, and will be post on bcschool.cupe.ca, to share more broadly with CUPE members in the K-12 system.

The toolkit includes many resources and is now available on the BCPSEA website.

More information on the toolkit, along with workplace posters and a video outlining the toolkit resources, is also available on the WorkSafeBC K-12 violence tools website.

This toolkit was developed by a WorkSafeBC working group that included CUPE and other education system stakeholders. All the resources were reviewed by CUPE National health and safety representatives to ensure consistency. They were also reviewed by the K-12 coordinators in CUPE, employer representatives, and WorkSafeBC staff.

The WorkSafeBC workplace violence prevention strategy working group will continue to meet regularly. It will assess how the toolkit is being used by school districts to prevent violence in the workplace. The resources in the toolkit will be updated and revised annually, or sooner if needed.

ACTION NEEDED: ventilation reports

All school districts in the province are required to report on ventilation improvements and measures put in place in each school, in accordance with health and safety guidelines. The Deputy Minister of Education says these reports need to be completed by school districts and submitted to school-level Joint Occupation Health & Safety (JOHS) committees as soon as possible.

We are asking all JOHS committees to share the completed ventilation system overview reports with the CUPE K-12 coordinators once they’ve been submitted by school districts. If your JOHS Committee has not received this report, please request it from the district Superintendent, Secretary-Treasurer or Facilities Leads. A copy of the ventilation system overview report template is attached.

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Bulletin – Update on vaccine mandates in K-12 system

The B.C. government has announced mandatory vaccinations for the province’s over 30,000 public service workers. While this mandate does not directly cover workers in the K-12 education system, CUPE anticipates school districts will be applying similar mandates in K-12 schools in the near future.

CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta issued a statement saying, “the B.C. government implementing mandatory vaccinations across the public service makes sense as they are the best proven measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities…. Given the rise in COVID cases in our schools, we think it also seems prudent to apply this mandate to the K-12 system.”

In preparation for possible K-12 system vaccine mandates, the Ministry of Education held the first meeting of an ad hoc advisory committee last night with BCPSEA, CUPE and other partners to develop common principles, standards, and guidelines. CUPE supports this work and is calling for the B.C. government and all school districts to adopt a uniformed approach that ensures all immunization plans are effective, efficient, and respect the rights of K-12 school workers. CUPE also stresses that any vaccination mandate must ensure there are reasonable accommodations for the small number of education workers with recognized human rights exemptions.

If your school district is considering a mandatory vaccination policy, here are some steps your local should be taking with your National Representative:

  • Ensuring that the employer consults with the local before implementing a policy. It is not the local’s role to ‘approve’, ‘agree to’, or ‘consent’ to any employer policies, but the union should have notice and an opportunity to comment on new employer policies.
  • Considering whether the policy gives reasonable timelines for employees to be vaccinated.
  • Reviewing the process for employees to raise legitimate human rights grounds for exemption from the policy – is there a clear direction about who those requests should be directed to and how they will be handled?
  • Asking how member’s personal information will be handled and ensuring that the personal information is not shared outside or used for any other purposes
  • Looking closely at what steps will be taken for those who refuse vaccination and what consequences will follow. Advocate for consequences less than termination, such as unpaid leaves of absence, with an opportunity for review if, and when, the threat of the pandemic recedes.

All CUPE members are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, as it is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. In addition to considering vaccine mandates, CUPE is urging school districts to expand safety measures that promote clean and healthy schools, such as permanent daytime custodial services.

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Bulletin – Mask mandate expanded to include K-3 students

Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside announced today masks will be required for all students in K-12 schools effective October 4, 2021, expanding the mandate to include kindergarten to Grade 3. As of Monday, all BC students will be required to wear masks while inside a school building, including on buses and at desks.

The K-12 Presidents Council and CUPE BC have been advocating for a broad K-12 mask mandate this school year, both publicly and at the provincial K-12 Education Steering Committee. CUPE looks forward to continuing working with the BC government and the other stakeholders on the steering committee in monitoring and adapting COVID-19 safety measures during this ever evolving and changing pandemic.

While CUPE welcomes today’s announcement, the union is also advocating for additional measures to keep schools clean and healthy, such as reinstating daytime cleaning by custodial staff to reduce the spread of disease through frequently touched surfaces. The extremely positive health benefits that students, workers, and communities have seen from expanded daytime custodial services during the pandemic must be made permanent.

CUPE will continue advocating for daytime custodial services with school districts, as well as long-term ventilation infrastructure upgrades and rapid testing in schools.

The Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 Settings have been updated to include the new mask requirements and can be found on online on the BC government website.

CUPE strongly recommends vaccinations to all members, as they are crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19.

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Bulletin – Update on COVID-19 safety measures in K-12 schools

The Public Health Officer and BCCDC have updated the process for COVID-19 exposures in K-12 schools. Exposure notices will be posted online. Links can be found on the BCCDC website.

The Ministry of Education has also released an update on COVID-19 safety measures for the K-12 education system that provides further guidance regarding proof of vaccinations, safe isolation of students showing COVID-19 symptoms, and school attendance for students not showing symptoms but having close contact with a confirmed case.

Proof of vaccination

The PHO has confirmed that all K-12 school activities are excluded from proof of vaccination requirements.

This applies to all educational and extracurricular activities, any programs for children and youth offered by a school or other school-led event. This applies to students, parents/caregivers, volunteers, and staff.

This exemption applies to field trips. Public venues, however, will still require proof of vaccination if members of the public will be present.

The exemption does not apply when school facilities are rented out for non-school events. In these cases, the person or organization is responsible for verifying proof of vaccinations (not the school or school district).

CUPE strongly recommends vaccinations to all members, as they are crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Safe isolation of symptomatic students

Students who develop symptoms of illness at school should be provided with a separate space outside of the classroom where they can wait for their parent/caregiver.

Ideally this would be a separate room such as a first aid room or empty office, or a low traffic area with barriers or where physical distance can be maintained.

Asymptomatic attendance

People (including staff and students) that have close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases (someone in your own household) may be permitted by public health to continue to attend school/work, as long as they are not showing symptoms of illness (asymptomatic) and are fully vaccinated.

Public health officials will help determine if self-isolation is required for household members while following up on a confirmed COVID-19 case and advise if school attendance permitted for other asymptomatic household members.

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