WHITBY – Durham District School Board votes to rescind mask mandates in schools

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Published March 11, 2022 at 11:38 am

Photo Frank Gunn, Canadian Press

The Durham District School Board has voted to ‘rescind’ mask mandates in schools as of March 21, following the lifting of the mandates by the Provincial government the day before.

Ajax trustee Donna Edwards told a special meeting of the Board of Trustees Thursday that masks will still be provided to students and teachers should they wish to wear them – as per current protocols – at least until the end of June.

“We wanted to do this as things could change – we all know the government has had a tendency to change their minds,” she said. “We also wanted to make sure our schools have a very mask-friendly environment.”

Trustees marked their territory on both sides of the debate but in the end decided to “trust the science” and voted 6-0 to rescind the mask mandate, with three trustees abstaining.

Parents now re-considering the benefits of the at-home learning experience because of the mask mandate decision were told to reach to their principal. The schools would then decide on a case-by-case basis.

Teachers unions around the Province chimed in with their thoughts on the government’s decision, with the Elementary Teacher’s Federation calling it “premature” and other unions worrying the lifting of the mask mandate as students and families go into March Break will lead to a spike in cases later this month.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced several changes to health and safety measures in schools on Wednesday in addition to the lifting of the mask mandates:

  • As of March 14, the end of mandatory vaccination policies and the 3x a week rapid testing of staff who are not vaccinated/did not disclose vaccination status is no longer required.
  • As of March 21, lifting of other measures in schools, including cohorting, distancing and daily on-site screening.
  • There are now no limits on indoor or outdoor social gatherings and organized public events.

For the time being, School Board meetings will continue to be virtual and enhanced cleaning, optimizing air quality/ventilation and the Board’s absence reporting measures will remain in place. The province has said they will continue to provide school boards with a supply of rapid tests that can be distributed to students and staff.

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