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Published April 13, 2022

Masking remains optional, but strongly encouraged in Simcoe County schools with uptick in COVID cases

Ottawa-Carleton public board reinstates mandatory masking in schools
kids in masks

No mandatory mask requirement is on the horizon at the Simcoe County District School Board or Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, unless told otherwise by the province or local health unit.

Masking in schools is taking centre stage as Ontario deals with a sixth wave of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, trustees at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) voted in favour of a motion requiring that masks be worn in all of its buildings, a move that is in direct opposition to the Ford government which lifted masking in most indoor public spaces last month.

The OCDSB sent a letter to school families on Wednesday to let them know the mandatory masking policy takes effect immediately and will apply to staff, students and visitors.

The Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) in an email statement to Barrie 360 on Wednesday afternoon said the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit will be providing school boards with a message for families that will be shared this week. In the letter, the board says the health unit encourages mask wearing, though they are not mandating masks.

"The SCDSB continues to work closely with and take our direction from the Ministry of Education, CMOH and the health authorities at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit on all matters related to COVID-19," the board said in its email. "To date, there have been no school closures in the SCDSB. Staff continue to closely monitor student and staff absences."

Choppier water at the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB).

The board has had several school closures due to staff shortages, and in an email to Barrie 360 on Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson said that based on advice from local public health, the board is strongly encouraging students and staff to wear masks at school, especially indoors.

"We are in the midst of a 6th wave and our schools are experiencing staff shortages and high student absenteeism, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage from an operational standpoint," the board said in its statement to Barrie 360. "With regard to mandating masks, we will continue to take our direction from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. Our approach is to follow the lead of public health on matters such as these, and we do not have any plans to step outside their guidance."

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