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TDSB formally notifies parents about changes to COVID-19 policies


The Toronto District School Board has formally notified parents about a series of changes to its COVID-19 policies and procedures, including a plan to bring back unvaccinated staff who were placed on leave last year.

In a memo issued on Friday morning, the TDSB confirmed that they are tentatively planning to lift their mask requirement as of March 21 unless Toronto Public Health and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health agree to a request that they made during a meeting Thursday night for “additional time.”

The changes, however, extend beyond just masking.

The TDSB says that trustees have voted to rescind the mandatory vaccination policy for employee as of March 14, in line with direction from the Ontario government.

That will pave the way for the return of the 100 permanent staff and 643 occasional staff that were placed on leave in November after failing to comply with the terms of the policy.

The TDSB says that “cohorting and distancing” will also no longer be required in its schools going forward as part of a broader return to normal. Restrictions on assemblies and other events are also being lifted.

“We'll work with our schools obviously to answer any questions they may have but as of right now come March 21 the vast majority of measures will be lifted, though I should point out that we are still strongly encouraging people to wear masks regardless,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told CP24 on Friday.

A number of groups have criticized the Ontario government’s move to lift the mask mandate in schools as of March 21, including the Ontario Principals’ Council and the Children’s Health Coalition.

But Premier Doug Ford has so far stood behind the decision, arguing that “there has to be a point after two years of going through this where people have a choice.”

In its memo, the TDSB said that while masks will no longer be required after March 21 they will continue to be “strongly encouraged” and Personal Protective Equipment will still be provided to staff.

Meanwhile, the board said that positive case notification letters that have been issued to parents when there are cases in their child’s classroom will continue until the end of March but will then be “reassessed.”

The Ford government previously lifted the requirement for boards to publicly report positive cases in January, though many boards have continued to notify parents when there is a confirmed case in their child’s classroom.

“For the past two years, the TDSB has prioritized the health and safety of students, staff and school communities. As we move to a more sustainable, long-term approach to managing COVID-19, you are encouraged to continue with the layers of protection that make you feel comfortable,” the memo states.

While the TDSB has said that it will follow the province’s guidance on masks unless permitted more time, Bird said that trustees do feel that the March 21 timeline is “a little too soon,”

He said that for that reason the board is telling parents to plan for masks being made optional in two weeks’ time while embarking on a “parallel process” to seek approval for a delay.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board has also indicated that it has formally asked for a delay to the lifting of the mask mandate.

“We have heard the concerns from our parents and our students and our staff that they would just like a little bit more time, perhaps two more weeks just after returning from March Break. They feel that it is maybe a little bit too soon and they would like just to have that time extended,” TCDSB spokesperson Angela Kennedy told CP24 on Friday.

On Thursday Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees voted to keep masks in place for students and staff until April 15.

The University of Waterloo has also said that it will maintain its mask mandate through the end of the winter term.

Speaking with CP24 earlier on Friday, infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said that he does not believe that masks should be required in schools “indefinitely.” But he said that he would have liked to see the province until a few weeks after the March Break to lift the mandate.

“I just think it's a little bit too soon right now. I would keep them on for a few more weeks. I'd watch how things go before and a few weeks after March Break,” he said. “Listen if we still have a downward trajectory (then), if things are headed in the right direction, let’s take them off.” Top Stories

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