A Winnipeg school division has proposed mandatory COVID-19 vaccination or regular testing for all of its students who want to play sports and participate in extracurricular activities.
The Louis Riel School Division is floating a draft policy that would require students age 12 and older to show proof of vaccination or consent to regular COVID-19 testing before participating in sports or other after-school programs, such as music and theatre.
Superintendent Christian Michalik said students, parents and staff — including coaches and volunteers — will be asked for their feedback over the next few weeks to refine the policy. It is still in its early stages, and won’t be scheduled to go through its third reading until October at the earliest.
Michalik said he doesn’t want the policy to exclude youth from extracurricular activities, but does want to encourage vaccinations.
"I’m one who believes the thing that needs to happen is folks need to get vaccinated; that’s the most important behaviour we can all commit to to get us out of this pandemic, and that includes children."
Michalik said the draft policy is being proposed as a way to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission and complement existing policies on mandatory vaccination for teachers and school staff.
Unvaccinated staff must undergo regular testing, as per a provincial directive. Michalik said the division has test kits for its staff.
"I’m well-aware that it’s controversial; I’m well-aware that it’s not just about the LRSD community, education is for the whole of the community," he said. "I’m aware of all of these things, but for me it’s important that we continue to nurture the dialogue and create the opportunities as a community to come together on these questions, and try to problem solve."
Youth playing sports and participating in recreation programs are exempt from vaccination requirements under the existing provincial public health orders. Adults, including parents, coaches and spectators, must be vaccinated to gain entry to a sporting event or recreational activity.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.