The Ontario government has advised school boards to follow the province’s plan to end mask mandates in schools on March 21, despite pushback from some of them. 

Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore released the province’s plan to live with COVID-19 on Wednesday, which included dropping the mask mandate for schools after March break. 

“Of all the provinces to release plans to lift masking requirements in schools, Ontario has one of the most cautious timelines,” said the Ontario Ministry of Education in a statement emailed to True North on Friday. “School boards in this province are expected to implement this cautious plan, coupled with the ongoing improvement of air ventilation within Ontario classrooms.”

While Ontario is among the last provinces in Canada to lift mask mandates, Moore’s statement said that they would be deploying 49,000 air ventilators to schools and child care centres. Ontario will also be giving schools 7 million rapid tests every month as well as additional funding for cleaning and staffing to manage COVID-19. 

“Because of these many layers of protection, the increase in investments and Ontario’s overall improved situation, all schools in the province are open,” it said. 

Some school boards have expressed concern about repealing the mask mandate, with some of them promising to keep it in place longer. 

Trustees at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) voted against ending the mandatory mask policy for staff and students on March 21. 

HWDSB trustee Alex Johnstone said the decision to remove masks felt “rushed.” 

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable just lifting it, and I’m feeling like I’m being forced to vote this way,” said Johnstone. “And that’s not right.”

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education asking for more time to remove COVID-19 measures in schools. 

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said that the board’s trustees want to create their own timeline for lifting restrictions. 

“I think it’s a little too much too soon,” said Bird. “And that seemed to be the consensus for most (trustees).” 

Ontario premier Doug Ford said that the school boards are not medical experts. 

“Follow the direction of the chief medical officer, plain and simple,” said Ford at a press conference. “That’s what we expect and hopefully they’ll do that.” 

Ford said that Moore has done his due diligence and consulted with other medical officers before making his decision.