Toronto District School Board
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Since the beginning of the pandemic, the TDSB has prioritized the health and safety of both staff and students. While the TDSB takes its direction from the province, which does not require masks, given the increase in COVID-19 cases and the high number of absences, we as a system, are asking that all staff and students wear a well fitting mask when indoors in TDSB schools and buildings to limit the spread of COVID-19 and help minimize disruption from COVID-related absences. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and should Ministry or public health direction change, the TDSB will of course implement as required.

Why is the TDSB not mandating masks like other boards?
The TDSB has always taken its health and safety direction from the Ministry of Education and public health officials, which have made clear that school boards cannot continue the COVID-19 measures that the Province lifted in March. The Minister of Education has clearly stated that “Every student in every school board in Ontario retains the choice to wear a mask.” We also believe that any possible school-board specific mandate would not be able to be enforced at the school level, putting our school communities at odds with each other when they’ve just started to heal and resume normal activities (e.g. assemblies, field trips, clubs). Without a provincial mask mandate, many individuals will not comply consistently with wearing masks. Provincial and/or public health direction to the general public is a powerful motivator for children and adults to consistently wear masks both in and out of schools as an added layer of protection.  

What do public health officials recommend?
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has said he “strongly recommends” wearing a mask in indoor public spaces. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam is also advising Canadians to continue wearing a mask, while Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, said she still recommends the use of masks indoors, especially amid an increase in COVID-19 cases. In line with provincial direction, Toronto Public Health currently states that: “Schools and boards can continue to encourage mask use especially indoors and/or in crowded settings and/or in areas with poor ventilation, while respecting individual choices regarding masks based on one’s own risk assessment.”

Why have other school boards been able to require their students and staff to wear masks?
We have closely reviewed the mask policies from the school boards that have chosen to mandate masks. Under those policies, those who do not wish to wear a mask can self-exempt themselves without providing any documentation or reasoning to support their decision. In other words, those who do not wish to wear a mask can choose not to do so. This is a very similar approach at TDSB, except we do not require a formal request.

What’s your legal obligation?
The issue is not about legal authority to protect staff and student safety, but instead, the medical and public health basis for taking such steps to impose a “mandatory” masking requirement. At present, the advice from local and provincial public health authorities is not to make masking mandatory, but rather, to strongly encourage masking indoors. We are following this advice.

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