‘It’s tremendously difficult’: WRDSB seeking legal advice on masking policy

When students return to school following March break, it may look a little different.

Starting March 21, masks will no longer be mandated to wear in schools, under provincial guidelines.

The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) still doesn’t have a plan in place.

“Frankly, it’s tremendously difficult for school boards to implement on a timely basis,” said Scott Piatkowski, chair for the Board of Trustees.

The Ontario government told school boards they have to comply with the order to end mask mandates.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education said: “school boards in this province are expected to implement this cautious plan, coupled with the ongoing improvement of air ventilation within Ontario classrooms.”

The WRDSB Board of Trustees are holding a special meeting Friday night to discuss its mask policy, and is seeking legal advice.

“On whether we have any option in terms of extending our own mask mandate, which we passed in August 2020, or whether we have to comply with provincial directives,” Piatkowski told CTV News.

If a school board wants to keep masking in place, said the Ministry of Education, the local Medical Officer of Health has the ability to issue an order under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Public Health for Waterloo Region said there are no plans to issue that order at this time.

“There are safety measures that are still in place in schools,” said Dr. Rabia Bana, the Assoc. Medical Officer of Health for the region. “So that will also come into consideration when looking at the whole picture of risk, and whether it justifies something like a Section 22 order.”

Some school boards are already going against the province.

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board voted to keep masks in place until April 15.

The Toronto District School Board said it is sending a letter to the province, asking to have more time to remove the mask mandate.

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board and the Upper Grand District School Board said it will follow the province’s guidance and remove the mask mandate on March 21.

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