WRDSB votes unanimously to make masks mandatory for all students
KITCHENER -- Trustees for the Waterloo Region District School Board have voted unanimously in favour of making masks mandatory for all students.
Previously, students in junior kindergarten up to Grade 3 were exempt. Masks would be mandatory for students in Grades 4 to 12.
The trustees met at a special meeting on Monday night, where the motion went forward. The motion said masks would be mandatory for all students, staff and visitors in indoor settings.
There will be exemptions for students who are unable to wear a mask for medical reasons. The motion will also look at options for students who are unable to wear masks, like face shields.
Trustee Carol Millar brought froward the motion to straighten out mixed messaging, since younger students would need to wear masks on the bus but would be able to remove them once they got into class.
There will be no disciplinary action for students not complying, the WRDSB said.
Trustees hope the change will help ease the minds of some parents, who said they wouldn't be sending their kids back to school because younger students wouldn't be wearing masks.
The cost of masks incorporated all students in the system, not just those in Grades 4 to 12, the trustees said.
Trustees have also called for a feasibility study on temperature checks for students and staff. That study is expected before school starts in September.
WORKING ON OUTBREAK PROTOCOLS
Trustees discussed protocols for handling outbreaks at the meeting, but said they're waiting for direction from the Ministry of Education and public health officials.
The school board hopes to have an answer by the end of the week.
Students who are sick and need to go home will be able to transition to distance learning.
MOST STUDENTS PLAN TO RETURN
In a document released before the special school board meeting, the WRDSB said that 83 per cent of elementary students and 89 per cent of secondary students said they would be heading back to school in September. The school board asked for parents and caregivers to fill out a survey about whether or not students would return to school by the end of last week.
More 62,000 students responded, according to the school board.
The school board added that families that change their minds will need to patient as their request is handled in a safe way.
The board also said that 94 per cent of school-based staff and 86 per cent of education centre staff will come back to work in September. They received 6,000 responses from staff, who still have until Tuesday to respond.
LETTER TO EDUCATION MINISTER
The trustees voted to carry forward a motion asking for additional funding for the provincial government heading into the new school year.
The motion said the trustees will write an open letter to the Minister of Education, copying five MPPs representing the Region of Waterloo, to ask for more funding to cover the expected shortfall caused by COVID-19. The trustees said they wanted the province to fund the shortfall, rather than having to dip into the school board's reserves.
The WRDSB wants the province to provide enough money to cap elementary classes at 20 students and allow the school board to hire more teachers and staff. Trustees said the letter will include a request to rent and outfit community space if needed.
The region said it will send a copy of the letter to other public school boards in the province.
Students who chose distance learning in September will receive real-time, synchronous learning for part of the day using Google Classroom and Brightspace.
The school board said they will monitor attendance.
There will also be independent learning every day, including pre-recorded video lessons, assigned tasks and online discussion boards.
Students who asked for technology-free distance learning will still be in contact with a teacher regularly via telephone, according to the school board.
QUAD-MESTERING SECONDARY SCHOOLS
High school students will take part in quad-mesters come September.
They will take two classes per semester, with a total of four semesters in the school year.
High schoolers will only attend one course per day to minimize contact with other students. The school board suggested one cohort coming in Monday to Wednesday and the other Thursday and Friday. The cohorts would rotate days each week.
Masks and face coverings will be mandatory for all students.
The trustees voted on the motion on Monday night.
Previously, students in junior kindergarten up to Grade 3 would be encouraged to wear a mask in public spaces, but it wouldn't be required.
The school board said staff will be provided with medical-grade masks and eye protection.
NOT AVAILABLE IN SCHOOLS THIS FALL
The school board said students won't have access to lockers when they return to school in September.
Organized sports, school clubs and committees won't operate this school year, either.
The WRDSB said they won't hold assemblies, large gatherings or field trips. Playground equipment and water fountains will also be off-limits.
The schools won't be available for indoor community use until at least November. The school board said outdoor fields will be available for rent.
School is scheduled to start on Sept. 8, but the provincial government announced last week that school boards can choose to stagger the start of classes. The WRDSB hasn't announced whether it plans to change its start date.
With reporting by CTV News Kitchener's Krista Simpson and Zayn Jinah