A test of the Toronto District School Board’s new vaccine exemption policy has found that more than a thousand TDSB staff and staff assistants are about to work in schools while awaiting word of their approval or denial to waive immunization requirements.
The school board’s temporary policy, which went into effect on Oct. 8, said staff and staff assistants, who are unable to meet the vaccine requirements of either the Ontario Public Health Act or the Personal Immunization Program, may request waivers. As a result, the board plans to hire 768 temporary staff to address a “significant backlog” of enrolment at the TDSB.
However, less than two weeks after the TDSB’s new policy was rolled out, it discovered that thousands of employees and staff assistants have yet to receive decisions from the board regarding their immunization status.
As a result, public health nurses have stepped in to help TDSB staff and staff assistants work around the clock. With 2,245 children on track to receive exemptions this school year, it could take months to see how many staff members are facing difficulty complying with immunization requirements.
In order to meet provincial reporting requirements for the policy, children who receive exemptions from health authorities will be asked to re-enroll in the school system.
Pertinent questions include, “Is your child on the list of exemptions for the Ontario Public Health Act?” and “Does your child have a temporary exemption and when was this issued?”
If your child is on the list, your information will be included in the TDSB’s reporting system. If your child is exempt from the Ontario Public Health Act, your child will not be automatically enrolled in the school system. You must attend their notice centre to enrol your child in the system.
TDSB administrators expect about 450 parents to attend each notice centre.
Once parents receive the information required for enrolment in the system, their children will be enrolled automatically.
The notice centres are located at TDSB locations in Knoxdale-Merivale, Weston, Newmarket, Oakville, Oakville West, Yorkdale, Kanata South, Dufferin-Peel, Forest Hill, and St. Lawrence Heights. A list of these centres can be found at tcsb.ca.
Submitting an exemption request
Parents are required to submit a form to request a medical exemption, a religious exemption, or a conscientious objection in order to exempt their child from school vaccine requirements.
To obtain an exemption, it is necessary to complete the form or request a waiver before your child applies for admission to school. Once your child applies for school admission, he or she cannot receive an exemption until the parent/guardian applies for a waiver.
According to TDSB administrators, there is no set time limit for submitting an exemption request. It is recommended that applications are filed at least 48 hours prior to the application deadline. Exemptions are valid for the school year only.
The TDSB family health clinic is also a source of vaccine information. This is an off-site vaccination clinic, but is located at 95 Talbot St. W.
But if parents become uncomfortable asking for a waiver at the family health clinic, they can go to any TDSB school or daycare located in the community.
Vaccination is required for all students in all schools and all daycares in Ontario. When students are not immunized against preventable diseases such as whooping cough, rotavirus, and measles, their schools are liable if there is an outbreak of diseases such as pertussis and measles.
Most private schools are exempt from vaccine requirements.