As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) is feeling the strain with hundreds of employees currently absent because of illness or exposure.
At a special board meeting Tuesday night, staffing shortages also sparked a debate about mask mandates.
“We are north of 1,000 total absences, which is approximately 1 per cent of our overall staff. A majority of that absence is due to either illness or quarantine,” said Director of Education Mark Fisher.
Before the meeting could conclude, Trustee Corrine Rahman introduced a motion that would see a temporary re-introduction of a mask mandate at Thames Valley Schools
“Is it possible that this small action can help to keep people safer and keep schools open?” she asked.
The motion was seconded by Trustee Bruce Smith, but then Trustee Meagan Ruddock made a point of order, saying the board had no place instituting such a mandate.
“I am confused why we are wading into an operational matter with a motion that is clearly operational in nature, as it relates to the day to day operations of the board,” said Ruddock.
General Counsel for the board Ali Chahbar was asked for legal opinion as it pertains to the motion, saying directives from the Ministry of Education would supersede any motion from a local school board.
“My understanding is that the minister of education has been clear in so far as the role of school boards in terms of passing mask mandates. And we are bound like every other board in the province by that guidance,” said Chahbar,
A vote on the point of order motion was then held resulting in Rahman’s motion would no longer be allowed to be debated or voted on.
“The assembly has decided that the motion is not in order, so that is the end of it,” said boar parliamentarian Lori Lukinuk.
After the result, Rahman attempted to maneuver the idea in another direction but was quickly stopped by another point of order.
With that the meeting ended and the board making it clear any decision on mask mandates must come from the province.