Face masks not mandatory for Kindergarten to Grade 3 students in Ottawa public schools

OTTAWA — Some Ottawa parents say it was a mistake for Ottawa’s public school board to vote against a motion to make face masks mandatory for young students.

Ottawa Carleton District School Board trustees voted eight-to-four against a motion to make masks mandatory for all Kindergarten to Grade 3 students. Masks are mandatory for students in Grade 4 to Grade 12.

Christina Schneider’s daugther is in Grade 1. She wears a mask all day, every day. 

“I fully support the younger kids wearing masks in school,” says Schneider. “My daughter is six and she’s completely stubborn. But she knows that to protect everyone else she has to wear a mask and I’d like other kids to be doing the same.”

Schneider believes all children attending school should be wearing masks, regardless of age.

“Once they hit Kindergarten they need to start learning to get into the routine of things anyway. And this is gonna be our new normal for now,” says Schneider.

The OCDSB trustees voted against the motion, eight to four, to make masks mandatory. Trustees voted against the motion noted Ottawa Public Health has not recommended masks for younger students in school.

“I voted to strongly encourage to wear a mask. I did not vote to require masks,” says trustee Justine Bell. 

Bell says making masks mandatory would be a difficult task for teachers to monitor.

“When you have a kindergarten class with a cap of 29 students, your ability to enforce mask wearing, its not there,” says Bell. “The bottom line is that there is no concrete evidence out there to support children of this age group wearing a mask.”

Trustee Donna Blackburn put forward the motion. She says if things keep getting worse, the board might have to reconsider. 

“I still remain concerned. Our cases remain going up,” says Blackburn. “Anytime a trustee puts forward a motion and it doesn’t pass, there’s always a level of disappointment. I don’t think I’m unique in that.”

Although it is not mandatory, Schneider will continue to send her daughter to school wearing a mask all day.

“It’s something that they have to do every day,” says Schneider. “Like get dressed, brush their teeth. It’s basically the same thing now.”

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