UGDSB says majority of students to be fully vaccinated before start of 2021-22 school year

GUELPH – The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) has announced the majority of students across the board are expected to be fully vaccinated before the start of the 2021-22 school year.

UGDSB provided its monthly COVID-19 update during a board meeting on May 25.

A report was prepared by superintendent of education Gary Slater, reflecting the time period from when schools closed in early April.

The report states that as of May 17 there was only one case in schools across the board, down from 21 cases as of April 19, however Slater noted the student was not actually infectious while in school, therefore there was no risk.

The report outlined the targeting testing program up to and including May 12.

At that time, 59 schools were invited for testing which included students, staff and families, as well as bus drivers that service those schools. Out of 1,126 tests completed, three tested positive.

According to Slater, as of May 28 UGDSB schools have been invited to participate in a targeted testing clinic in their area and at the end of June, a final report will be presented.

Slater also provided an update to trustees on the vaccination clinic program. Recently announced under the program, students aged 12 to 17 will be approved for vaccination.

Slater noted in the presentation the ministry has made it a priority to offer vaccines for students and will have as many as possible vaccinated with their second dose before school starts in the fall.

Clinics will be run by public health out of current vaccination sites in Orangeville, Palmerston, Mount Forest, Fergus and Guelph (University of Guelph, the West End Community Centre and Linamar).

In addition, UGDSB will host a clinic at Centre Dufferin District High School in Shelburne to ensure that there’s a site that’s as close by as possible for Shelburne students.

Information will be going out to families on how to pre-register online and receive codes so they can set up their appointments.

Public health will be setting aside vaccine times for students aged 12 to 17 and sign up will be open June 1.

“Hopefully we’ll get a significant uptake of our students at that time signing up for a vaccination,” Slater said. “At this point the number of students who have already in that age group signed up is approximately 6,000. We are certainly thankful that those extra clinic times will be made available for our students between now and the end of August.”

In response to the report, trustee Barbara Lustgarten Evoy asked, “have you seen any indication on our students’ thoughts around what fall might look like in COVID?”

Slater responded, “we haven’t asked officially around people’s thoughts about the fall. I think there’s a lot of hope for as much of a regular return to school as possible and certainly we’re preparing for multiple eventualities and again hoping for the best and expecting that we’re going to have some similar kinds of protocols and public health safety precautions in place.

“But certainly, it’s on people’s minds and (they’re)thinking about it but we haven’t asked specifically for concerns to be sent to us.”

Misinformation concerns

Trustee Linda Busuttil asked about the rollout of the school population vaccination program, with concerns around public misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.

In response, Slater said in addition to information about the sites where vaccinations will be offered, public health has also provided the board with information sheets for families around issues of misinformation and vaccine hesitancy to be shared with the community.

He added public health is also in communication with the UGDSB and the Wellington Catholic District School Board about the possibility of open question parent nights, which will be offered online.