March 11, 2022
Dear, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa.
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I am writing you to ask for additional guidance and time to adjust health and safety measures in schools with regard to the province’s recent announcement about lifting most public health measures, including mask mandates, by March 21, 2022.
Throughout the pandemic, we have relied on the direction of the Government of Ontario and Toronto Public Health to protect our students, staff and school communities from the spread of COVID-19. The TDSB has done everything in its power to keep schools open and safe with our mask procedure, the purchase and installation of HEPA filters and securement of medical grade masks for students, among other measures like social distancing, cohorting, signage and more. While we are grateful for this support, it is our responsibility as a school board to provide safe and caring learning and working environments for all students and staff, and we believe our school communities would be better served if staff had more time to help our families and staff gradually adjust to such new measures.
We understand that a large majority of our students and staff are young and healthy, and that vaccination rates are high among those 12 years of age and up, but it’s important to factor in that the Board does serve students and staff that are immune-compromised, medically-fragile and at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 or have immediate family members who fall into these categories. It’s also known that vaccinations rates are still low among students ages 5-11 and those under 5 are not eligible yet.
To remove such measures like masking, distancing, cohorting and daily screening protections at the same time would go against our multiple layer approach to protecting our school communities from the spread of COVID-19.
Therefore, we ask that the Chief Medical Officer of Health:
• provide additional direction regarding masking to protect medically fragile staff and students, including children in congregate settings; and
• consider the COVID-19 situation in Toronto, and allow the Toronto District School Board additional time to approach the removal of protections within schools that mitigate risk as per Dr. Moore’s direction “cautiously and gradually” that would culminate with the removal of TDSB’s masking procedure after March 21, 2022.
We also request that Toronto Public Health provide their expert opinion and guidance on the student health impacts from the execution of the Ministry’s guidelines.
As time is a factor, we ask that all parties please reply to our requests by Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
This would enable the Board to properly plan for students and staff to return after March Break.
Chair, Toronto District School Board