Prioritize N95 masks, vaccinations for students and staff: Ontario Public School Boards’ Association

By Lucas Casaletto

Ontario’s Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) says that while it supports a return to in-person learning next week, precedence must lie in getting students and staff vaccinated and subsequently protected against further transmission.

OPSBA President, Cathy Abraham, says proper masking and more vaccinations are the two most significant factors with classes to resume on Wednesday.

“In the midst of this most recent wave in the pandemic, we want to express our ongoing confidence in our public health system and our appreciation for the incredible work of our healthcare workers and leaders,” Abraham said.

“In order to support the common good, as a society, we must continue to do what is necessary to fight this threat, including vaccination and a commitment to masking.”

Abraham and the OPSBA are making three key recommendations ahead of Jan. 5, saying priority should be awarded to students and school staff to receive vaccine doses for which they are eligible.

“Consideration should be given to providing students and all school staff access to PCR testing in order to maintain confidence in school safety and to minimize disruptions resulting from quarantining,” they said. 


The additional PPE, including N95 masks, must be made available to school staff as soon as possible. Further clarity must be provided around which types of masks provide sufficient safety in the current environment.”

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore announced last week that school staff would have access to N95 masks with the province handing out 3,000 additional HEPA filter units.

Moore said only low-contact indoor sports and safe extracurricular activities would be temporarily permitted. Publicly funded PCR testing is now only available for high-risk, symptomatic individuals and those at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as well as vulnerable populations.

Abraham says they will continue to encourage Ontario school boards to consult with local public health units to keep students and staff safe.

“Finally, we want to thank all of the dedicated education workers and leaders across our province for continuing to rise to the incredible challenges of this pandemic as they work to do the absolute best for our students.”

Health care officials and opposition members have criticized the Ford government’s back-to-school plan, saying a delay of 48 hours (from Monday to Wednesday) achieves very little.

Ontario Liberal party leader Steven Del Duca again lambasted Ford and accused the Premier of endangering the lives of students and school staff.

“Ontario Liberals support all of these crucial measures. Doug Ford needed to do everything possible to keep our students and education workers safe and our schools open, instead he shamefully chose to hide,” Del Duca said.

On Saturday, the provincial government confirmed that Ontario would no longer report COVID-19 case numbers at schools and child-care centres.

Memos sent Thursday to school boards and child-care centre operators say the government is suspending reporting cases in these facilities because of “changes to case and contact management.”

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