TDSB postpones unpaid leave for 290 unvaccinated staffers, citing shortages

The country’s largest school board will further postpone unpaid leave for some unvaccinated staffers, citing shortages, especially in special education.

In an email to parents Monday, the Toronto District School Board, which has a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, said it had placed about 330 staff on administrative leave because they had not been vaccinated, but granted temporary exemptions to about 290. .

“These waivers will only last until we can adequately fill these positions on a case-by-case basis,” the message said, noting that most unvaccinated employees who are allowed to continue working for the time being are special needs assistants, early childhood educators and counselors. of the lunchroom.

“As we implement the procedure, it is important that there is minimal impact on student learning, well-being and safety. As part of this plan, we rely on casual/casual employees to fill these employees, but like other school boards across Ontario, we are seeing lower levels of casual/casual employees taking on available jobs. In addition, we know that the absence of some staff would have a serious impact on the ability of some schools to maintain the safety and well-being of students.”

The board, which has approximately 41,600 TDSB employees, including faculty, administrators and support staff, noted that the approximately 290 employees with temporary exemptions make up about 0.7 percent of the total.

“We know this is an incredibly challenging time for staff affected by this procedure, but we are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our students and staff,” the board’s email read. adding that “It is important to note that all staff, including those on temporary exemptions, continue to meet all Ministry of Education requirements, including regular rapid antigen tests three times a week for those who have not been vaccinated.

Marie Tattersall, whose daughter attends King George Junior Public School, where there was a COVID outbreak in September, says that “the prospect of condoning unvaccinated lunchroom supervisors as a solution to staff shortages is completely unacceptable.”

Terri Chu, who has a three-year-old son in elementary school and a six-year-old daughter in first grade at Palmerston Avenue Junior Public School, calls the board’s message a “vaccine kickback.”

Her son, who will be four in a few weeks, is not yet eligible for a vaccine, which will be rolled out to children aged five to 11 from this week. So even if more kids get the shot, including her daughter, Chu’s son will remain in a subgroup that can’t because of his age. But even more worrying, she says, is that some educators have refused to be vaccinated.

“What kind of people are assumed in the education system that they would be so scientifically illiterate as to refuse a vaccine that has been widely available for six months?” she asks. “I’m more concerned that this is a thing. And what it means in general for the education system, for our children and for children at risk.”

In late October, Toronto’s board of directors announced it would postpone unpaid leave for staff who had not been fully vaccinated from November 1. Instead, it decided that those who did not want to be vaccinated on November 21 would be given unpaid leave. of absence.

Many who had not disclosed their vaccination status were believed to be casual workers who had not yet worked shifts this fall. Earlier this month, about 800 workers were suspended for non-compliance, but nearly 700 were temporary workers.

Parents have expressed concerns to the board about unvaccinated staff working with children, particularly those in primary school who have not yet been vaccinated and in particular special education students who may be medically vulnerable.

While the TDSB cannot disclose whether specific individuals have been vaccinated, concerned parents of children who are immunocompromised or at greater risk for COVID can contact the director.

“We would encourage (parents) to talk to the school to find out more – not necessarily about vaccine status, but perhaps they can be reassured that there is no problem in that class or be made aware of the steps are being taken to keep everyone safe,” said spokesperson Ryan Bird. “If anyone is concerned, it really is best to talk to the school principal.”

Trustee Shelley Laskin said in her weekly update to parents that trustees were informed Friday that “some TDSB schools have determined that the absence of some roles would seriously impact their ability to maintain the safety and welfare needs of students.”

She said the director of education “confirmed that these waivers are only valid until we are able to adequately fill vacancies with increased amounts of staff available and willing to provide service and support to our schools and students.”

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