Hamilton's public school board encouraging students, staff to wear masks at learning facilities

Hamilton’s public school board is encouraging students and staff to wear a mask amid concerns over the spread of the flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

In a message to families on Wednesday, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) director of education Sheryl Robinson Petrazzini said the board would be promoting a “mask-friendly” environment until further notice.

Ward 3 trustee Maria Felix Miller told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton the message was spurred on by viral illness surges at Hamilton’s hospitals, resulting in staffing pressure and the adjustment of daily surgeries.

In recent weeks, Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) reported that occupancy at McMaster Children’s Hospital has been hovering around an unprecedented 130 per cent capacity in inpatient pediatric units.

“So we, the trustees at the HWDSB, have really tried to take a supportive approach, a compassionate approach that helps protect our vulnerable populations,” Felix Miller explained.

“What is that? That is our disabled students, our special needs students who are members of the community that are immunocompromised.”

Masks are being provided by schools upon request.

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Exemptions will include consuming food and drink, working in an inaccessible area to students where two metres of distance can be maintained, or for medical conditions.

Other exemption conditions include those connected with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, some human rights code issues and other health and safety matters.

The policy will likely continue as per recommendations from Hamilton Public Health.

“This masking is specifically for indoor scenarios and falls in line with the Hamilton Public Health’s recommendation that in indoor crowded areas, everyone should be masking right now,” said Felix Miller.

Ontario’s minister of education Steven Lecce said his office would “respect the choices of parents” on the masking in schools issue.

During a presser on Thursday, Lecce also said ministry policy will adhere to the reccomendations of the province’s chief medical officer of health.

“I think public health units … have been provide with the authority to consider additional measures if required and will always defer to doctors not polictians to make decision with respect to the safety of families…,” said Lecce.




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