Masks mandatory in all Ottawa public schools effective immediately, OCDSB says

Ottawa’s public school board says masks are mandatory in all schools and buildings, effective immediately.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is informing parents, students and staff of the new policy after the board passed a motion Tuesday evening to require all staff, Kindergarten to Grade 12 students, volunteers and visitors to wear a mask in schools.

“We know that there are many different perspectives in the community about mask mandates. This can lead to difficult conversations and sometimes can impact relationships,” Director of Education Camille Williams-Taylor said in a statement to parents.

“A school is a community and relationships matter. We ask for your help in respecting the mandate, respecting each other, and keeping our focus on student learning.”

Williams-Taylor says there will be exceptions to the mandatory mask requirements, including:

  • Masks may continue to be removed by individuals while actively eating or drinking
  • Masks are not required to be worn outside but are encouraged
  • Where a student is receiving support for a learning need that would be impeded by mask wearing, masks may be removed during that intervention
  • Students may remove masks when engaged in higher intensity physical activities in physical education classes or sports
  • Staff working alone in enclosed spaces, i.e. offices or classrooms, may remove their masks

Williams says the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board will approach the implementation of the mandatory mask mandate from a learning perspective.

“We recognize that there will be cases of non-compliance,” Williams-Taylor said.

“Where a student without an exemption refuses to comply with the masking requirements, staff are asked to show understanding, promote awareness and use trauma-informed practices in order to make efforts to understand the reason for the lack of compliance and see if a resolution can be reached.”

If a student refuses to comply with the mandatory mask requirements, schools will contact the parents/guardians to either assist in helping the student meet the mask requirements, or to apply for an exemption to the masking requirement.

Williams-Taylor says the school board has the legal authority to implement a mandatory mask bylaw for health and safety reasons.

The board will not be using suspensions or expulsion to enforce the masking requirements.

“We anticipate that the majority of students will comply. However, we respect that some families may seek an accommodation/exemption,” Williams-Taylor said.

“It’s important that everyone respects the rights and choices of others. The best strategy to protect your child is to ensure they wear a mask and are fully vaccinated, practice proper hand washing, complete a daily self-screen, and limit social gatherings outside of school.”

Medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches has urged employers to encourage mask use to help limit transmission.

“Employers do have a role to play. I very much appreciate that the school board and other employers are thinking about how can they strengthen mask use indoors because it does add one other layer of protection,” said Etches during an interview on CTV News at Six.

Students are not required to wear a mask on school buses.

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