Masks

On April 12, 2022, the Board of Trustees passed a motion requiring all staff, students (K-12), volunteers and visitors to wear a mask inside any OCDSB school or office building. 

We know that there are many different perspectives in the community about mask mandates. This can lead to difficult conversations and sometimes can impact relationships. A school is a community and relationships matter. We ask for your help in respecting the mandate, respecting each other, and keeping our focus on student learning.

Who is required to wear masks in OCDSB schools and buildings?
All individuals are required to wear a mask inside OCDSB schools and buildings. This includes students, staff, and visitors (including parents picking up or dropping off children for EDP).

Where are masks required to be worn on school property?
Masks will be required indoors. The use of masks outdoors is optional, but encouraged if individuals cannot maintain a safe distance apart.

When does this come into effect?
The indoor mask use requirement comes into effect immediately.

How long will the mandatory masking requirement be in place? There is not a current end date established. We will continue to work with Ottawa Public Health to monitor COVID cases in the community and associated risk factors which will inform the lifting of the requirement.

Why was this decision made?
The number of COVID-19 cases is rising in our community. This impacts the health of students and staff and also has contributed to an increase in the number of temporary class closures due to staff shortages.
Ottawa Public Health is strongly encouraging the wearing of masks when indoors, and has encouraged school districts and other organizations to consider temporary masking policies as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

How were parents and students consulted? 

In our recent Community Check-in, parents, students and staff shared a lot of feedback about wearing masks. The feedback from parents and students was mixed between those who support wearing masks in schools and those who want to see an end to mandatory masking.

Where can I view the Board of Trustees’ discussion on this motion? 

The recording of the April 12, 2022 Special Board Meeting is available on YouTube.

What exceptions are there for mask wearing indoors?

There will be exceptions, for example: 

  • Masks may continue to be removed by individuals while actively eating or drinking;
  • Masks are not required to be worn outside but are encouraged;
  • Where a student is receiving support for a learning need that would be impeded by mask wearing, masks may be removed during that intervention;
  • Students may remove masks when engaged in higher intensity physical activities in physical education classes or sports,
  • Staff working alone in enclosed spaces, i.e. offices or classrooms, may remove their masks;

Are masks required on school buses?
Masks are not required on OSTA student transportation, but are strongly recommended.

How will the mask requirements apply to visitors?
Masks are required for all visitors/users when inside an OCDSB building,This includes parents and guardians, volunteers, third party professionals, service providers, and community use of school permit holders. The removal of masks for active eating and drinking and high intensity physical education classes and activities also apply to visitors.

What types of masks are recommended by Ottawa Public Health?
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recommends wearing a well-fitting mask that fits snugly against the sides of your face with no gaps and completely covers your nose, mouth and chin. For more information about types of masks and how to choose a mask, visit the
OPH Masks page.

Will extra masks be made available in schools for students or staff who need one?
Yes. Please contact the school administration if your child needs a mask.

Accommodations and Exemptions

Can students apply for accommodation or exemption related to indoor use of masks?
Yes. Students may request an exemption to mask wearing citing medical reasons, including sensory or breathing difficulties, and other visible and invisible disabilities; developmental reasons, including cognitive conditions and other special education needs; other Code based reasons, including mental health and religious and creed accommodations; or other learning needs shall be approved by the principal.

Any student accommodations that were in place March 11, 2022 will continue during this period of mandatory masking without a need to reapply. 

How can I apply for accommodation?Families seeking an accommodation/exemption from the requirement are asked to complete the following form. 

Implementation and Enforcement

How will this be implemented?
We approach this requirement from a learning perspective, recognizing that masks continue to be an important part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to share information from health professionals about the importance of mask use.

We recognize that there will be cases of non-compliance. Where a student without an exemption refuses to comply with the masking requirements, staff are asked to show understanding, promote awareness and use trauma-informed practices in order to make efforts to understand the reason for the lack of compliance and see if a resolution can be reached.

What happens if a student refuses to wear a mask?  Where a student is refusing to comply with the masking requirement, parents/guardians will be called to either assist in helping the student fulfill the masking requirement, or to apply for an exemption to the masking requirement.  We respectfully request that students who refuse to wear a mask, complete the exemption form. This will ensure we have a documented exemption and can share that information with appropriate school staff.

Students will not be suspended or expelled if they do not wear a mask. Students with an exemption will continue to learn in the regular classroom and will not be isolated or group in any other way.

We continue to encourage a culture of empathy, respect and cooperation with respect to mask wearing.

Is this legal for the OCDSB to put this order in place if it is not required from the province or local health authority?

Many questions have been raised about whether there is legal authority for mandatory masking in schools. Based on discussions with legal counsel and with Ottawa Public Health, we believe that the school district has the legal authority to require the wearing of masks for health and safety reasons. This authority is rooted in our statutory obligation under the Education Act to promote student well-being; the duty of principals to take "assiduous care" of the health of students; and our obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take all reasonable measures to protect the safety of workers. There may be some limits on the extent of our authority to enforce this requirement. For this reason, suspension or expulsion will not be used in enforcing the masking requirements. 


What if I do not want my child to be in a class with unmasked students?

The requirement for mask wearing is mandatory. We anticipate that the majority of students will comply. However, we respect that some families may seek an accommodation/exemption. It’s important that everyone respects the rights and choices of others. The best strategy to protect your child is to ensure they wear a mask and are fully vaccinated, practice proper hand washing, complete a daily self-screen, and limit social gatherings outside of school.

Student Learning and Well-Being

What resources are available to support students’ mental health during this transition?

Recognizing that some children may be having increased difficulty during this transition, we would encourage you to speak with your child's school administrator if you have significant concerns which require support. Administrators can arrange for a consultation with one of our school board's mental health professionals. We would also encourage you to look at our Mental Health Resources page which has information related to many wonderful community supports, including 1Call1Click, Counselling Connect and many more. Alternatively, if you have specific questions and would like to email our Mental Health Leadership Team directly, please email [email protected].

I am concerned about masking and its effect on my child’s learning.

If you have reason to believe that wearing a mask adversely affects your child’s learning needs, you may apply for an exemption and explain your concern.

Questions/Comments

How can I contact my Trustee?
You can find your Trustee’s contact information on our Trustees page.

Where can I get more information?
If you have questions, please contact the school principal.

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