TORONTO -- The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) says it will extend its Nov. 2 for COVID-19 vaccination deadline by nearly three weeks for some workers, as it grapples with employees who won’t respond to its queries and a high number of claims for medical exemptions.

In a newsletter distributed by Trustee Shelley Laskin, the TDSB says it won’t place all unvaccinated employees on home assignment without pay on Nov. 2 as it promised.

Instead, only employees who have not completed a vaccine attestation form or any bi-weekly rapid antigen tests since early September will be put on unpaid leave on that date.

“While staff who have not submitted their attestation or rapid antigen testing results will be put on home assignment without pay as of November 2nd, the full implementation will take place over the following three weeks,” the newsletter said. “This decision was based on feedback from system leaders, a longer than anticipated time required to review a significant number of requests for exemptions, and in order to ensure continuity in students’ learning and care and important business processes.”

Spokesperson Ryan Bird told CP24 that staff who have told the board they are not vaccinated will now have until Nov. 19 to get their first dose, and until Dec. 19 to receive their second.

Staff who still have not received any dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 21 will be placed on unpaid leave.

Anyone who applies for a medical exemption and is denied will have 45 days from when they were denied to get a vaccine dose, and will have to submit to rapid antigen testing bi-weekly during that time.

Yesterday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that across the Ontario education sector, there could be as many as 50,000 workers in all capacities who are either unvaccinated or have not disclosed their vaccination status.

The Ministry of Education told CTV News Toronto it estimates there are at least 46,000 education workers who are not fully vaccinated.

In the TDSB, staff says that as of Oct. 22, 85 per cent of the employees for which its vaccine mandate will apply have attested that they are fully vaccinated.

Another 1,705 people, or four per cent of the workforce have not yet filled out a vaccine attestation form, leaving 4,188, or 11 per cent of its employees who are unvaccinated and told the TDSB so in an attestation.

The TDSB says it will continue to contact employees who have not yet filled out an attestation directly.

“It is thought that many of those who have not yet completed the form are casual employees who may not have worked for the school board yet this school year,” staff wrote in a report circulated to trustees.

The TDSB’s vaccine mandate applies to all teachers, trustees, managerial staff, bus drivers, interns and co-op students placed at the board, and all other individuals who provide services to children at schools, volunteers or otherwise.

It originally decreed that everyone have two shots of an approved COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 1.

While the TDSB did not disclose how many of its staff have sought medical or other exemptions from vaccination, it said it approved five exemptions so far.

The ratio of 12.5 approved exemptions per 100,000 approved at the TDSB is higher than the 1-5 in 100,000 ratio public health officialssuggest should be seen in the general population.