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