No word on whether two Niagara school boards will maintain mask policies

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Published March 10, 2022 at 11:48 am

While Brock University campuses in St. Catharines and Welland will maintain their mask mandates past March 21 and Niagara College campuses in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Welland expected to announced a similar policy this week, what will happen in the District School Board of Niagara and Niagara Catholic District School Board is still up in the air.

With March Break coming next week (March 14-18), the clock is ticking down on whether the two school boards will continue the mask mandate or abandon it as the Province is dropping them on March 21.

Certainly, Niagara Region Health’s acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mustafa Hirji is urging not only the two school boards but businesses and institutions at large to maintain the mask policies, saying it is too early to drop one of the biggest lines of defence against COVID-19.

With only 50 per cent of Niagara school-age children having their first shot and 26 per cent being double-dosed, there could be concerns about the abruptness of suddenly dropping masks.

However, there is an education-based group – the Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC) – that is pushing to maintain mask mandates through to the end of the school year.

Representing 5,400 principals and vice-principals in Ontario’s public elementary and secondary schools, the OPC just stated that they oppose the government’s plan to lift the mask mandate in schools as of March 21 and urges all Ontario schools to immediately pause the lifting of this restriction.

“Throughout the pandemic, the OPC has always supported and relied upon the advice and science of the medical community,” the OPC said in a statement last night (March 9).

“However, this announcement does not appear to be grounded in the science. Dr. (Kieran) Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, has indicated that case loads are likely 10 times as high as limited PCR testing indicates. According to government data, the vaccination rate for children ages 5-11 is under 30 per cent, well below that of the 18+ population.”

The group added that Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children advises against removing masks in schools for at least another month. And with the families of over two million students preparing to start March Break, when many will be travelling and meeting socially with others, “we believe that lifting the mask mandate on March 21, 2022 will jeopardize the safety of students, staff and our school communities.”

The OPC believes that following March Break and the days of religious observance in April, Ontario will be in a better
position to monitor actual case counts, assess the aftermath of the other pandemic-related restrictions that are set to be eased, gauge ongoing absence rates in schools and further consult with the scientific and medical communities about potentially removing masks.

“The education sector also needs to be part of this consultation, as we are the professionals who are in schools
everyday with students.”

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