Guelph’s public school board says mandatory masking will no longer be required in its schools as of March 21, with provincewide masking requirements being lifted by the Ontario government.
There had been some confusion on whether face coverings would continue to be worn in classrooms because trustees with the Upper Grand District School Board approved a board resolution in August 2020 that all staff, students and visitors were required to wear a mask indoors and on school buses.
That resolution for all students was passed by the board just days after the province announced it would only require students from grades 4 to 12 to wear masks.
The province then extended the order to include grades 1 through 3 in August 2021.
On Wednesday, the Ontario government announced masking would no longer be required in schools as of March 21.
In a statement on Thursday, Upper Grand said it “consulted with several parties to determine next steps and receive clarity” on whether it could still mandate masks in school.
“Those consultations concluded that once the province lifts its masking requirements, the school board does not have the independent authority to prescribe public health measures in response to an infectious disease, such as COVID-19,” the board said.
“Further, boards of trustees do not have the authority to impose restrictions that the Ministry has directed must be revoked.”
Changes to the masking protocol will be on the agenda during a board meeting that had already been scheduled for March 22.
The board of trustees will have to follow the direction of the government and bring forward a motion to officially rescind the board resolution from August 2022.
“We know that the topic of masks can be a divisive one,” director of education Peter Sovran and chair of the board of trustees Linda Busuttil said in a joint statement.
“We want to stress that students, staff and visitors are still welcome to wear masks in our schools, and this is their choice. Masking indoors continues to be strongly encouraged. Staff will continue to be provided with personal protective equipment.”
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