No necessary masks in Ontario faculties this fall, Training Ministry says

Masks won’t be necessary in Ontario faculties this September, the province’s Training Ministry says.

In an electronic mail to CBC Toronto on Monday, the ministry stated most well being and security necessities for the upcoming college 12 months will stay unchanged from the top of the 2021-22 college 12 months, which incorporates the voluntary use of masks.

“The federal government will proceed to supply free high-quality masks for college kids and N95s for workers, in the event that they select to make use of them, all which stays unchanged from the 2021-22 college 12 months,” reads the e-mail.

“College boards will proceed to have entry to speedy antigen assessments for use in accordance with provincial testing steering.”

The ministry provides that main medical specialists, together with the Kids’s Well being Coalition and medical officers of well being, have been consulted on this 12 months’s well being and security plan.

The information comes days after the province’s chief medical officer of well being stated the seventh wave of COVID-19 in Ontario has peaked.

Nevertheless, when the masks mandate was lifted in faculties final 12 months, the Elementary Lecturers’ Federation of Ontario referred to as the transfer “untimely” and stated it might put college students vulnerable to having in-person studying disrupted as soon as once more.

Ontario Training Minister Stephen Lecce stated late July the province’s precedence is to maintain college students in school for in-person studying this upcoming college 12 months. (Susan Goodspeed/CBC)

Late final month, Training Minister Stephen Lecce dedicated to maintaining Ontario’s two million college students in school for in-person studying this college 12 months.

“We’ve got taken motion by deploying over 100,000 standalone HEPA filter models to school rooms and studying areas, enhanced cleansing, and continued entry to speedy antigen assessments,” Lecce stated in a press release.

“Our authorities stays targeted on offering college students with a optimistic, secure, and regular college expertise.”

‘Our head within the sand’: skilled

Since Ontario dropped widespread COVID-19 testing in December, medical specialists say it is laborious to know the true variety of COVID-19 circumstances locally.

“We’re mainly with our head within the sand, you already know, as a result of we’re not testing for it,” says pediatric infectious ailments specialist Dr. Anna Banerji.

With this in thoughts, Banerji says masks are the neatest factor to implement to maintain youngsters secure — particularly since many youngsters in Ontario aren’t but vaccinated towards COVID-19.

“Utilizing masks, I feel, is a simple factor to do for most individuals, to provide them further safety,” Banerji advised CBC Toronto.

” what is going on to occur within the fall, the place we already had a seventh wave and doubtless we’ll have an eighth wave … I feel it is a good factor to do.”

Ontario expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to youngsters aged 5 to 11 in November final 12 months. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Banerji says whereas the summer season months get everybody’s guard down, dad and mom ought to know youngsters are nonetheless vulnerable to getting COVID-19, notably once they return to school rooms.

“We all know extra youngsters are getting long-COVID, youngsters are getting the inflammatory syndromes, and so get your youngsters vaccinated.”

Not a shock to highschool board, union

Robin Pilkey, Parkdale Excessive Park college trustee for the Toronto District College Board, says she wasn’t shocked by the information.

“There may be truly no distinction between when folks left in June, to what is going on to occur in September,” stated Pilkey.

Pilkey says till final spring, college boards had the power to mandate masks for all employees and college students, even when the province solely specified necessary masks for sure grades or ages. However since masks mandates have been lifted final spring, she says present laws eliminated that possibility.

“We won’t out of the blue go, ‘Oh, we would like everybody to put on a masks’ as a result of beneath the laws, we won’t try this,” Pilkey advised CBC Toronto.

Pilkey says faculties are persevering with to comply with all mandates beneath provincial pointers, together with air flow necessities, to maintain faculties secure. She notes anybody is welcome to put on a masks if wanted.

“In circumstances when folks felt like they could not come again to highschool, on-line education exists. We’re doing what we are able to with that.”

Karen Littlewood, the president for the Ontario Secondary College Lecturers’ Federation, additionally says she wasn’t shocked by the information. Regardless of this, she says the union has plenty of considerations headed into fall, together with COVID-19 vaccination charges, a resurgence in circumstances, distancing in school rooms, correct air flow, the disruption to in-person studying, and even rising monkeypox circumstances.

“We have to be sure that persons are knowledgeable and that they’ve all of the protections that they want,” stated Littlewood.

Littlewood says shifting ahead, the union will proceed to seek the advice of with medical specialists to ensure faculties keep secure.

“I feel we discover ourselves in a spot within the center the place persons are going to determine, and hopefully no one will likely be shamed or embarrassed as a result of they select to put on a masks,” stated Littlewood.

“However the extra individuals who put on masks, the extra persons are vaccinated, the higher protected everybody’s going to be.”