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DDSB decides not to ask the health department for a mask mandate

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

DURHAM: After a lengthy discussion, the Durham District School Board (DDSB) has decided they won’t ask the Durham Region Health Department to reinstate mandatory masking requirements in their schools.

At a board meeting, on Monday, November 21st, Oshawa Trustee Shailene Panylo made a motion to have the board “formally request the Durham Region Health Department act proactively to protect children in our schools and give [the board] the directive to reinstate masking requirements,” in order to “help mitigate risk and illness.”

“Although we do have very vocal individuals here who oppose [the motion], there are also those who have asked for it.” Trustee Panylo stated. “Our job as trustees is to have difficult conversations, even when we don’t want to.”

Several times at the meeting, trustees were interrupted by members of the public, when the issue of masking came up.

Student trustee Ben Cameron supported the motion.

“I believe this is the right place and the right time to do this,” he said. “We have the power to act, and I do believe it is our duty to protect the most vulnerable.”

However, another Oshawa trustee, Linda Stone, said she couldn’t support the motion because the Ontario government has already made their position clear on this matter. Right now, the Ontario government is only “strongly encouraging” the wearing of masks in schools, due to a rise in cases of Influenza, Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19.

“I find it a moot point now,” trustee Stone stated.

Pickering Trustee Emma Cunningham seconded the motion.

“In my opinion, the [strongly encouraged wording] is ineffective. If what [the Ontario government] truly wants is for people to wear masks, then unfortunately that is going to call for a mandate, because otherwise it is not going to happen,” she voiced.

Brock/Scugog/Uxbridge trustee Carolyn Morton cited mental health as the reason she couldn’t support the motion.

“I have always focused on the social, emotional, mental and physical wellbeing of our students,” she explained. “Mental health, to me, is so important, and for that reason I cannot support this motion.”

She also noted, she believes the decision on whether to wear masks should be made by families, not trustees.

After a recorded vote was held on the motion, Trustee Panylo’s motion was defeated, with nine trustees voting against it.

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