TVDSB to lift mandatory masking; proms, grads back on

by Rob Perry
Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Thames Valley District School Board, in a notice to parents on Friday, March 11, stated that as of Monday, March 21, the wearing of face masks by staff, students and visitors in its schools would no longer be mandatory, but was still being highly encouraged.

“Based on advice from the Office of the (Ontario) Chief Medical Officer of Health, and in alignment with community measures, the province is returning schools to a more typical learning environment while maintaining protective measures like rapid tests, ventilation improvements, extensive cleaning protocols, screening, and continued access to free masks for students.

“We acknowledge and respect that some families may feel uneasy about these changes to health and safety protocols, and we welcome and support personal and family choice. 

“Thames Valley continues to follow direction from our local public health units.”

As of March 21, the board said, the provincial government was lifting the mandatory requirement for face masking as a COVID-19 precaution in most public places.

“Thames Valley highly encourages masking for students, but honours and respects personal and family choice.”

As some students may choose to continue to wear masks at times, or consistently, for the remainder of the school year, free student masks will continue to be provided.

However, the board continued, anyone returning from travel outside Canada had to wear a mask at all times when in public places, including schools and childcare centres, as well as maintain a list of close contacts for 14 days.

So, children of families who take March break trips would have to do so.

“Cohorting” and indoor and outdoor physical distancing will no longer be required at schools, and assigned seating will no longer be used on buses.

“Students can play and learn together across cohorts, classes and grades, both indoors and outdoors and during lunch and recess. Shared spaces, such as libraries, technology labs, theatres and music rooms can be fully utilized without distancing.  

“Limitations on in-person gatherings and assemblies will also be removed. Therefore, Thames Valley is pleased to share that school staff and volunteers can plan and host in-person events, such as proms, graduation ceremonies and assemblies.”

Children and parents will still have to complete daily COVID-19 screening before attending school or boarding buses.

Beginning March 21, parents and caregivers dropping off or picking up children at schools will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination before entering, or wear a mask while inside.

Starting March 28, spectators at sporting events will not have to show vaccination proof or wear a mask.

As of March 21, athletic activities, music or singing will no longer be restricted inside schools.

The board recommended that everyone continue to wash or disinfect hands frequently during school, and additional cleaning of buildings would remain in place.

The provincial government will continue to provide TVDSB rapid antigen tests for staff and students who want them.