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Insurer working on future pandemic coverage for school boards, post-COVID

As the Ontario government unveils its school re-opening plan, the insurer for the majority of the province’s boards is working on a plan to provide pandemic coverage, albeit for future pandemics and not for COVID-19.

Within the next six to eight months, the Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange (OSBIE) “may have a product that provides more specific coverage to school boards in the event of a pandemic,” said Jim Sami, CEO of Guelph-based OSBIE, in an interview this past Friday. “This would not provide coverage related to COVID-19 but will provide both first party and third-party coverage relating to future pandemics.”

At the moment, if a school insured by OSBIE is sued by a third party, and the pleadings allege there was COVID-19 transmission, OSBIE would have no automatic duty to defend unless it also alleges that the school board was in some way negligent, said Sami.

Generally, insurance is intended to cover sudden and unforeseen risk, rather than an event with a high probability of happening. OSBIE insures about 90% of school boards in Ontario, and that includes liability coverage. School boards can either buy insurance from OSBIE or from a different insurer.

“How schools manage the risk of disease transmission depends on how the Ministry of Education proceeds with re-opening. They are looking for various scenarios and each one would have specific risks that need to be addressed. For example, full opening, partial opening, virtual opening or hybrid.”