ST. PAUL - At the last regular board of trustees meeting on Jan. 12, the majority of St. Paul Education trustees voted in favour of mirroring the COVID-19 Harm Reduction Administrative Procedure (AP) that has been created by administration requiring all school division staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or test twice a week.
In an update specifically about the AP created for division staff, Superintendent Glen Brodziak said the document had been distributed to all staff.
He noted that extensive review was been done while putting the AP together, including taking into account Occupation Health and Safety considerations, insurance considerations, legal considerations, and keeping in mind local context and the decisions of other school divisions in Alberta.
As per the AP, adults who are in St. Paul Education facilities and who are in contact with students and staff for more than 15 minutes will be subject to the AP. The document will be reviewed regularly and is meant to be a temporary measure.
Brodziak affirmed that it is not mandatory to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and those affected can choose to be tested regularly instead. In previous discussions, it was also noted that staff can choose to take an unpaid leave.
Board Chair Heather Starosielski asked trustees if they were in support of mirroring the AP so board members would also be subject to the rules in place. The item had been raised at the December board meeting and was brought back to the table during the January meeting.
Trustee Darcy Younghans said he felt it was prudent to move ahead with mirroring the AP for board members. He noted that he didn't think it would be right for the superintendent to be directed to create a policy for division staff, and then not have something similar in place for board members.
Starosielski noted that trustees would likely have to declare their vaccination status as part of the procedure. She noted that she felt it was important to be leaders and "set a direction." But, she also wanted to hear from each trustee individually on the topic.
Trustee Dwight Wiebe reaffirmed his support for the creation of a procedure or mirroring of the AP. He had noted his support at the previous board meeting also.
"(There's) no question that we should absolutely follow this direction," said Wiebe.
Trustee Lorette Andersen said she too believes the board must set an example, and added, "I wouldn't ask someone to do something I wouldn't do."
Trustee Sylvie Smyl, who voted against the creation of an AP for division staff, said she would be opposed to the creation of a policy for the board.
Trustee Jan Rajoo expressed similar sentiments, saying she believes it's up to individuals to make their own choices regarding vaccinations.
Starosielski reminded those in attendance that the AP was not put in place by the board, but rather was put in place by administration. The board, however, did previously vote to support the development of the AP, with Rajoo and Smyl voting against that motion, in December.
During discussions on Jan. 12, Brodziak clarified that trustees don't necessarily have to declare their vaccine status, but instead they can chose to be tested.
The free rapid tests being distributed by the Government of Alberta - and within schools - cannot be used as proof of a negative test. But, Brodziak previously noted efforts were being made to work with a third party to make testing more accommodating and affordable to staff members.
A motion for the board of trustees to adhere to the COVID-19 Harm Reduction AP, while it is in effect, was approved by the board.
Rajoo and Smyl voted against the motion.
A delegation by Judy Thompson and Corrine Beresford-Leeco also took place during the Jan. 12 St. Paul Education meeting.
The pair presented information about COVID-19, relaying statistics from a variety of sources, including federal and provincial government websites. The delegation was given a set time limit of 10 minutes, as per the school division's policies, and presented virtually to the board.
After offering a variety of statistics that ranged from hospitalization rates to the ingredient in vaccines, an alarm sounded at the 10-minute mark, however Beresford-Leeco continued to speak. Starosielski reminded the presenter a number of times that the 10-minute limit had been reached, before the connection was cut off between Beresford-Leeco and the rest of the meeting.
Starosielski noted to Thompson that her co-presenter was not adhering to the policy and was given numerous warnings.
"Respectfully, it works both ways," said Starosielski. She also asked to clarify who Thompson and Beresford-Leeco were presenting on behalf of, since a list of specific names was not submitted to the board.
Thompson simply stated "there's a lot of concerned citizens in the community."
Starosielski recommended the delegation re-direct the information to the appropriate health authorities, including local MLAs. Starosielski noted that neither she or the other board members are medical doctors, and have no way to verify facts and data presented, since it was not provided ahead of time.
"I think you need to find a different audience," said Starosielski, as she thanked Thompson for bringing her concerns forward.