Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange reiterated on Wednesday that mandatory vaccination will not be required for any of the province’s K-12 students. (File photo from the Associated Press)

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange reiterated on Wednesday that mandatory vaccination will not be required for any of the province’s K-12 students. (File photo from the Associated Press)

Alberta K-12 students will not be required to be vaccinated: education minister

Minister says School Act requires all students to have access to education

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange is reiterating that school children will not be required to be vaccinated.

However, proof of vaccination or a negative test results for teachers, staff and other adults remains strongly encouraged.

In a Wednesday letter to school authorities, LaGrange said that while vaccines may soon be available to students aged five to 11 — and Alberta Education has encouraged vaccination for all those eligible — the School Act says all children must have access to education.

“To be clear, there is no legislation in Alberta that requires K-12 students to have specific vaccinations to attend in-person schools, nor is Alberta Education considering mandating vaccines of any kind for students in the K-12 education system,” the minister Tweeted.

“As Minister of Education, I take very seriously the responsibility of providing access to education for all students in our province. School authorities cannot deny their students access to education due to their immunization status.

“Individual family choices need to be respected and students should not be stigmatized for their vaccination status.”

The same rules apply to all vaccinations. While at one time students in Alberta were required to be vaccinated against common viruses, such as chicken pox and measles, that is no longer the case.

Besides encouraging vaccinations in schools, Alberta Education made shots available this fall to students in Grades 7-12. By the time the program ended last month, 5,000 students and staff had taken part, said LaGrange.

While school boards cannot require students to be vaccinated, as an employer they can set vaccination rules for teachers and other staff.

School divisions in Edmonton and Calgary announced last month that all staff must be vaccinated or provide proof of a negative test.

Edmonton Public School Division said it will pay for testing through a third-party provider until Dec. 17. After that, staff will have to pick up the bill themselves.

The Alberta Teachers Association, which has 46,000 members, has come out in favour of mandatory teacher vaccination as a temporary measure to be handled reasonably and that alternatives to disciplinary measures for non-compliance, such as proof of negative tests, be provided.

Red Deer Public Schools spokesman Bruce Buruma said the government has made it clear to all school boards that they cannot mandate vaccinations for students.

“It is not up to nor allowed by divisions to mandate vaccinations. We need to follow provincial government in Alberta Health Services regulations.”

Red Deer Public’s board has asked the superintendent to come up with a draft policy that would apply to teachers, staff and volunteers. The policy will be discussed at a future special meeting.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools board recently passed a motion to postpone making a decision, at least until after the superintendent reports back on Nov. 30 with answers to various questions that have been raised.

“We have never broached the subject of requiring student vaccinations as this has not been a recommendation by Alberta Education or Health,” said Ryan Ledene, the school division’s associate superintendent of human resources.

“Students are not currently required to have any vaccination to attend school and school divisions collect no information regarding vaccination status of any type.”

Chinook’s Edge School Division spokesperson Sandy Bexon also confirmed that there is no mandatory student vaccination.

“As always, Chinook’s Edge will follow the guidance of Alberta Health Services (AHS), which has in the past included providing space in our schools for voluntary vaccination clinics, at AHS request.

“However, parental approval must be provided for any student prior to receiving a vaccine.”

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