COPACs Letter to Island Health

Picture of Copacs Executive
COPACs Letter to Island Health
by Copacs Executive - Sunday, 6 February 2022, 9:39 PM

To: Medical Health Officer, Saanich Peninsula

Re: Parent preferences regarding COVID vaccination for Saanich School District #63 Staff

Attention: Dr. Dee Hoyano, Saanich Peninsula Medical Health Officer

CC: Saanich School District Executive Director Dave Eberwein.; Chairperson Timothy Dunford.

February 6, 2022

Dear Dr. Hoyano,

The Confederation of Parents' Advisory Councils of Saanich (COPACS) is the official representative for School District 63 Parents' Advisory Councils (PACs). Every school has a PAC and each of these is a COPACS member. Our primary task under provincial legislation is to advise the School Board on “any matter relating to education in the school district”.

In October 2021 the Saanich Board of Education voted to encourage all employees and eligible students to avail themselves of the protection of the COVID-19 vaccine, for the health and well-being of all in School District 63, as communicated by this message: Following this message, several parents reached out to COPACS expressing a concern with this voluntary approach.

The COPACS interest on this topic is concerning the health of the student community, some of whom we assume are not vaccinated based on provincial stats. Our concern also lies with any unvaccinated teachers and staff that are vulnerable to transmission of the virus and hospitalization at a time when we need them to be healthy in support of our children’s education, the working lives of parents and the wellbeing of our community.

On November 3, 2021 COPACS reached out to all Parent Advisory Councils (PACs) requesting their input on their preference for a vaccine mandate for all School District 63 staff, similar to the requirement for BC Government employees announced October 5, 2021. The response from PACs was neutral to positive, with most being neutral – in other words, they were ambivalent about a vaccine mandate or not.

At the November 25 COPACS meeting, the ten representatives of PACs that were present voted in favour of a motion as follows:

Subject to the results of a parent survey with a simple 50% majority in favour, that COPACS write a letter to the Saanich School Board requesting reconsideration of the policy regarding staff vaccination and speaking in favour of a vaccine mandate for all staff.

COPACS proceeded with a parent survey and received 744 responses between Dec 21, 2021 and Jan 19, 2022. The key question was as follows:

Do you support having COPACS write a letter to the Province in favour of a vaccine mandate in alignment with the BCTF recommendation? This could be in addition to, or instead of a letter to SD63.

55% voted in favour of a letter requesting a mandate, 43% were opposed and 2% had no opinion. We had robust participation from all schools in the District. The results of the survey are presented in attachment #1. The additional comments provided to question #4, totalling 234 responses, can be made available upon request.

Based on the results of the survey in response to the November 2021 COPACS meeting action item, and on behalf of those parents who voted in favour, the undersigned COPACS Executive are writing to present a parents’ perspective on vaccinations for School District staff.

We note that on January 17, 2022, the BC Public Health Officer ordered that Districts report on their employees’ vaccine status, if required by their regional health authority:

The COPACS Executive are of the opinion that this PHO Order is a game changer. It formally delegates the responsibility to assess and manage risks in our schools to the regional Health Authority, as determined by public health criteria, science and evidence. While the Health Authority is only granted an opportunity to mandate disclosure of vaccine status, the data collection, if availed, could help inform other public health measures, if appropriate.

We are writing to Island Health in lieu of the Province, given your new mandate to determine a course of action on disclosure of vaccination status of School District #63 employees. We acknowledge that your determination will be based on evidence and public health risk factors, and thus have a neutral position on this matter, as that is outside of the expertise of COPACS.


Executive members

Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils of Saanich (COPACS)