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Masks required in TVDSB schools until local health units say otherwise: Trustee

Click to play video: 'Students push back as Ontario scraps mask mandates' Students push back as Ontario scraps mask mandates
First there were protests against mask mandates. Now some Ontario students are fighting to keep the rules. Abigail Bimman explains why, as one family doctor says there isn't enough science to support masking measures in schools. – Mar 21, 2022

A tweet by the chair of the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) Board of Trustees suggests that masking is still required by staff and students unless local health units intervene.

Lori-Ann Pizzolato tweeted at 6:50 p.m. Friday that “out of an abundance of concern for the health and safety of all… masking in TVDSB building is required until the Local Public Health Units in TVDSB explicitly advise otherwise.”

During a meeting Tuesday, trustees voted to approve a motion put forward by Trustee Corrine Rahman to enact a masking requirement.

It came in response to a growing number of staff absences at TVDSB that have been linked to illness amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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However, TVDSB general legal counsel Ali Chahbar told trustees that while they had the right to pass the motion, TVDSB would not be able to enforce a masking requirement.

“When the government of Ontario decided to lift that mask requirement as of March 21 of this year, the end result of that was that it served to remove the enforcement mechanism that existed,” Chahbar said at the time.

Pizzolato’s tweet recognizes that the masking requirement is separate from that of the province’s, stating, “We recognize that this may be a challenge for some and is a safety measure above provincial mandates, exemptions will be provided to all students and staff who choose to opt-out.”

Speaking with 980 CFPL, Pizzolato specified that the TVDSB is not enforcing a mask mandate, but instead, a mask requirement.

“The Trustees just wanted ‘required.’ They’re not saying we have to ‘mandate’ it,” she said. “We’re requiring it, we’re hoping people will understand the strong message we’re sending to try to keep all students safe.”

Read more: Masks stay optional after all at Thames Valley District School Board

As far as mask use at TVDSB, the fourth largest board in Ontario that holds schools in London, Middlesex County, Oxford County and Elgin County, TVDSB associate director Riley Culhane said he’s seen differences from community to community.

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“In some communities, you will see the majority of staff and students wearing masks, and in other communities, you may see the majority of students and staff choosing not to wear masks,” Culhane said.

“At this point, it is a choice for our students and staff, and we need to honour and respect those choices.”

— With files from 980 CFPL’s Andrew Graham

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