Ontario becomes the first jurisdiction in Canada to mandate masks in the classroom, with students in Grades 4 to 12 expected to wear non-medical masks with ‘reasonable exceptions’ in place, the government said

Ontario becomes the first jurisdiction in Canada to mandate masks in the classroom, with students in Grades 4 to 12 expected to wear non-medical masks with ‘reasonable exceptions’ in place, the government said

Ontarios middle- and high-school students will be required to wear masks when school resumes in the fall the first jurisdiction in Canada to mandate it in classrooms.
The government announced that most of the provinces 2-million students would be in school full-time in September, similar to plans rolled out in other provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia. Families in Ontario have the option of remote learning.
Furniture stands in a corridor at a school in Brampton, Ontario, on Thursday July 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Chris Young/The Canadian Press
Students in Grades 4 to 12 will wear non-medical masks, with reasonable exceptions in place, the government said. Children in kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged to wear them, but not required.
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No other province has required students to wear masks in classrooms. Only Nova Scotia said that high school students and teachers will be required to wear masks in hallways and common areas when physical distancing is difficult, and all students would also wear masks on buses.
The Ontario governments back-to-school plan has elementary students grouped or cohorted by classroom for the entire day, including lunch and recess. Physical distancing will be encouraged with others in the school, and students will eat lunch in their classrooms. Recess outdoors would be staggered to allow for distancing.
For high school students, secondary schools in large boards, such as Toronto, will open with a hybrid model so that classes can have about 15 students. Those students would attend every alternate day, for example, and would be in class for half the time, and remote learning for the other half. In smaller districts, such as Lakehead District School Board, where student enrollment is lower, those students would attend full time.
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The government said it is providing $309-million in funding to school boards for cleaning, public health nurses, and masks and personal protective equipment.
Medical masks will be provided for teachers and other school staff, it said.
Non-medical masks have become commonplace in grocery stores, movie theatres and churches. Yet educators, medial experts and families are divided on their use and effectiveness in schools, particularly among young children. There is a lack of evidence on the use of masks among children and youth. In Asian countries, children have worn masks to school, but that’s not the case in several European countries.
Ontarios pediatric hospitals released a school guidance document on Wednesday, recommending the use of masks for high-school students and perhaps even middle-school, when physical distancing cant be maintained. However, the report said the experts agreed that elementary students should not be required to wear masks unless they choose to do so. A significant minority supported the use of masks for younger students when physical distancing is not possible.
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The teachers unions in Ontario have said masks for students are necessary especially when physical distancing will be challenging among young children.
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