Thousands of Niagara school staff can get vaccinated for COVID-19 over April Break!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/1229644083.jpg

Thousands of staff members with schools in Niagara will be able to get vaccinated starting this Saturday.

As many as 4,000 educators and other people who work at District School Board Niagara (DSBN) schools can get their shots between April 10 and 18, according to a media release from the board.

Niagara’s Catholic board also says roughly 2,000 eligible staff can now sign up to receive their vaccine at the Seymour-Hannah Sports and Recreation in St. Catharines. The goal anyone who wants to have a shot can get one before they return to class following the spring break on April 19.

“Schools are microcosms of the community, and we know that we are not immune to being affected by community cases,” said Camillo Cipriano, Niagara Catholic District School Board director of education, in a statement. 

“We recognize how easy it is to transmit COVID-19, especially the new variants of concern,” she said. “This is one more step towards what most of us recognize as a normal school year, hopefully in September.”

Both boards pointed to Niagara Health and Niagara Region Public Health, thanking officials and the hospital system for advocating for school staff to get shots as soon as possible.

“Vaccinating staff who work in schools means that another layer of safety and protection is there for students, staff, and their families,” said Warren Hoshizaki, DSBN director of education, in a media release.

DSBN states that, with provincial plans to keep schools open, it has been pushing for staff to get vaccinated, describing shots for school workers as “critical.”

“NRPH and Niagara Health have gone above and beyond to ensure that staff who work in schools are vaccinated and we are incredibly thankful,” Sue Barnett, chair of DSBN added in the release.

“By making this decision, they have increased the safety of our students, staff, and their families for the rest of the year.”

The board says staff are working with health officials this week to sort out the logistics of providing shots so they can begin this weekend.

No word yet on shots for HWDSB staff

A spokesperson said just before noon on Tuesday that the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) has not received any update on when its staff members can expect to get vaccinated.

“There’s no doubt that we continue to advocate for education workers to receive the vaccination,” wrote Shawn McKillop in an email. “We’re staying hopeful and continue to work with Hamilton Public Health Services.  

HWDSB Director of Education Manny Figueiredo also said the board of trustees and executive council continue to push for education workers to have priority access to the vaccine.

“Education workers are essential, especially in this third wave, and plans should be adjusted to recognize your value and to keep schools open,” he said in a message to staff yesterday.

Jeff Sorensen, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Local for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said the union has so far received no information about shots for members.

He pointed to the HWDSB’s call for vaccines, saying he was “confused by the apparent disconnect” between pushing for shots and keeping schools open for in-person learning.

“If vaccines are necessary to keep staff and students safe, than why are we still open when we don’t have access to vaccines?”