OTTAWA — The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is hosting an emergency meeting to discuss pandemic protocols for the upcoming school year, which will include motions to clamp down on mandatory vaccination and mask use.
Ask any student their hopes for the upcoming school year, and the answer will likely be the same as seven-year-old Olivia Gordon;
“That It’s going to be a normal year,” but the Grade 2 student is also aware of a harsh reality. “I don’t know if that’s going to be possible.
Olivia’s mother, Davina, says the last two years have been a rollercoaster, both as a parent and as a secondary school teacher.
“It’s been very challenging being at home but we made the best of it,” she says. “They’re being true to themselves and getting their homework done. It’s inspiring to see how well the students have coped.”
But the classroom is where Gordon, like so many other educators and students, would prefer to be.
School begins in less than two weeks and at Tuesday’s emergency meeting, Ottawa’s largest school board will discuss and vote on increasing pandemic protocols that go above the provincial requirements.
OCDSB Trustee Lyra Evans will put forth five motions, three of which that would require mandatory vaccination, without a medical exemption, for all staff, anyone visiting school grounds and volunteers.
“We have a duty to all of the students in our care and we have a duty to our elderly and immunocompromised staff members to ensure everybody is safe at school,” says Evans. “If people can’t or won’t get vaccinated then there is a virtual learning and working opportunity available … It’s really the least we can do as members of society to make sure that we’re protecting others.”
Gordon is not opposed to the motion and says a vaccine is the best defence against COVID-19.
“Put it this way it’s pretty much mandatory for students to have all of their vaccinations before they go to school unless they have some documented reason for not having it,” says Gordon. “So why would a covid vaccination be any different.”
Gordon adds that as far as she knows, all educators at the school where she worked have been double-dosed.
The fourth motion would introduce mandatory mask use for children attending kindergarten. Under Ontario’s regulations, students in grade one and above must wear a mask.
“I think that kindergarteners will be able to mask for the time they are required,” say Evans. “Toddlers and preschoolers and young children are very adaptable and we’ve had a year of time to learn how to adapt to these masks and they’re required in public spaces.”
Evans’s final motion will be to work with public health to add an education component for youth about the risks and benefits of the covid-19 vaccine, to aid in their own personal choice about vaccination.
There will also be an update about ventilation upgrades and the progress at school.
All motions must be voted upon, then ratified.
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