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Ontario's plan to lift school mask mandate March 21 called into question

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and light blue tie, in front of a white, blue and gold background.
Doug Ford
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he expects all schools to lift the face masks mandate on March 21.

Ontario’s plan to lift masking requirements on March 21 is being called into question. Premier Doug Ford said he expects all school boards to follow that plan, but not all appear ready to comply.

Schools will face the first test of Ontario’s new approach to learning to live with COVID-19, but the Toronto Public and Catholic District school boards want the mask lifting to be put on hold.

Both school boards have made formal requests in writing. They said they’re worried about the spread of COVID-19 after March break, which begins this week.

Trustees at another school board, Hamilton Wentworh, recently voted to keep masks in place for students and staff until mid-April.

But premier Ford said come March 21, he expects all school boards to drop mask mandates, allowing parents to make the decision if they want their children to wear masks.

“Let me be very clear to the school boards. They aren’t medical experts. The chief medical officer is the expert. And he has done his due diligence. He’s consulted with other medical experts. He doesn’t make these decisions lightly. But our expectations to the school boards and to the exception of the parents that want their kids to put masks on, follow the direction of the chief medical officer, plain and simple,” Ford said.

The education minister has also said the boards are expected to follow the plan.

Many parents are still worried about the spread of the coronavirus. Even some medical experts would like to see the mask mandate extended. But government sources said the boards have no legal grounds to enforce a masking policy.