Sea-to-Sky parents must provide immunization records going forward 

SD48 briefs: Deferred enrolment policy

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - VACCINATE Sea-to-Sky parents must provide immunization records going forward.
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  • VACCINATE Sea-to-Sky parents must provide immunization records going forward.

Immunization records for Sea-to-Sky students must be provided to the school for the 2019-20 school year.

However, at a recent school board meeting, School District 48 superintendent Lisa McCullough made it clear that this does not mean that a child must be immunized, but rather that the student's records be provided.

"No child will ever be removed from a school," said McCullough. "No child will be told they can't attend our school. It's more a documentation effort."

Previously, Sea to Sky school district policy, like many across B.C., said it would prefer parents to provide vaccination records if available. However, since the measles outbreak in the Lower Mainland in early 2019, the Ministry of Education is making it mandatory for schools to ask for the record of immunization.

Trustee Celeste Bickford voiced concern about the immunization records policy, which she feared might confuse parents making it sound like students are required to be vaccinated.

"Are we saying kids need to be immunized to attend our schools?" Bickford asked. She added that while she is a proponent of vaccinations and documenting, Bickford is concerned the policy may cause anxiety in parents of unvaccinated children.

Bickford also suggested that getting immunization documents might be difficult for families coming from outside the country. But McCullough said those families are already required to have that documentation to enter Canada. It's mostly local families, McCullough said, who don't come with documentation.

The B.C. measles scare has resulted in a 106-per-cent increase in vaccinations for school-aged children compared with a year ago.

Deferment policy

The May 8 school district policy meeting revisited what has become a much-discussed topic: the placement of students who defer registration into kindergarten.

Under the School Act, a parent may currently chose to defer registration of their child into kindergarten for one year. The following year, it is not an automatic decision that the student is placed in kindergarten—they could be put into Grade 1. This has led to some concerns raised by parents.

In addressing these concerns the SD48 board consulted the School Act, the Ministry of Education and The Human Rights Tribunal, all of which said the school board policy does not violate human rights.

"The intent and the spirit of deferred enrolment is that you would stay with your age-appropriate peers and the process we use is consulting a collection of information over time so the family has other information to consider, and the principal has other information to consider," explained McCullough. "There's never a decision made in that moment."

While parents will be included in the consultation, the principal has the final say in student placement. The school board said it would consider providing more information about how the consultation process works instead of only outlining it in the deferred registration policy.

"The legislation branch and the ministry are very clear kindergarten is an optional program," said McCullough.

Bickford said parents should feel like valued partners in the placement process, not like victims, and that the policy should be clear so parents don't unwittingly miss out on kindergarten.

Since there are combined kindergarten and Grade 1 classes, McCullough added that students are in the same classrooms and environments as they would be if they entered kindergarten.

The superintendent added that the information gathered about students allows a principal—an education professional—to do research a parent wouldn't be able to do.

Rick Price, the board chair, said it's wrong to assume a parent arrives at school with all the information about how their child would behave in a classroom environment.

Moving forward the district policy will clarify what parents can expect. It will be edited and brought back to the board for the next meeting.

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