By Jonathan Bradley - November 7, 2021
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has placed 95 permanent staff on unpaid leave for failing to disclose their COVID-19 vaccine status as of Friday, according to figures provided by the school board.
Another 609 occasional staff with the TDSB failed to disclose their vaccine status and have been put on unpaid leave.
There are 1,016 staff who have attested that they are unvaccinated and risk being put on an unpaid leave as of Nov. 21.
Nov. 1 was the deadline established for the 41,485 staff with the TDSB to be fully vaccinated or face an unpaid leave or termination. But that deadline has been extended to Nov. 21 for people waiting for medical or religious exemptions to be considered.
There have been 518 creed requests and 413 medical requests made. Zero religious exemptions and five medical exemptions have been granted so far.
There are 1,704 staff on leave who are exempt until they return to work.
The vaccine compliance rate excluding staff on leave and those seeking exemptions is 95.6%. The new deadline was enacted to give the school board time to ensure staff is available to cover for those on administrative leave and to do their due diligence on vaccine exemptions.
TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told the Toronto Sun that many of the occasional staff who have been put on an unpaid leave have not been working during the school year.
Bird said the school board does not anticipate any challenges in the daily operation of schools. There are 13 elementary school teachers and three high school teachers of the permanent staff on unpaid leave, according to Bird.
“You may see the situation where kids will have a different teacher,” he said.
Bird said it is up to occasional staff whether or not they want to pick up any shifts.
The school board’s vaccine mandate comes as the TDSB is expected to see increases in the number of students in the coming years.
The TDSB said in February that it is projecting increased enrolments in the coming years because of increases in kindergarten students from the low number enrolled in 2020 and increased newcomer enrolment after fall 2021.
TDSB Chair Alexander Brown wrote a letter to Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce in 2020 asking for more staff to combat COVID-19 as school restarted.
“As you know, the health and safety of our school communities remains our top priority as we continue to plan for the reopening of schools this September,” said Brown. “While we appreciate your recent announcement of provincewide funding to help schools boards protect their communities from COVID-19, various school-based funding gaps still remain, including those related to class sizes, facilities and nutrition programs.”
Brown said the TDSB needed more staff to reduce class sizes in elementary schools to the greatest extent possible.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) recommends staff be fully vaccinated rather than order them to be. The TCDSB requires unvaccinated staff to undergo regular rapid antigen tests or risk being suspended.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) also has a more lenient vaccine policy. Unvaccinated staff with the DPCDSB have to complete two rapid antigen tests every week.