The Limestone District School Board is requesting an extension of the provincial mask mandate, set to be lifted in most settings on Monday, March 21.
Trustees unanimously voted to write a letter to Doug Ford and provincial health and education officials, but chose not to implement their own extended mandate.
Trustees Brown, Gingrich, McGregor, and French voted against extending the mandate in LDSB schools until April 1, with LDSB Trustee Chair Suzanne Ruttan breaking the tie and voting down the motion.
"I don't want to divide our community," Ruttan was quoted as per her decision against the motion.
The letter, shared this morning, comes less than 24 hours after a statement of support from the Medical Officer of Health from Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington demonstrated support for the province's return to school plan and the lifting of the mask mandate.
In the letter from trustees, Ruttan writes that concerns remain around the timing of lifting the mask mandate just after March Break, and that "a significant number of families feel abandoned by the removal of public health measures."
The letter continues saying that masks being required on public transportation but not on school buses does not make sense.
Although many are looking forward to the relaxation of restrictions, some experts like Dr. Peter Juni, director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table, call the move premature saying the timing doesn't allow enough time to assess whether the March 1 lifting of Ontario's vaccine passport has had an impact on COVID spread and hospitalizations.
Others said the province should at least wait to lift the mandates in schools until the very end of March or early April to minimize the impact March Break travel may have on spread, and some school boards like the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board have elected to do so.
Although the board has formally requested the extension, they are not planning to extend the mask mandate at local schools on their own volition.
Last week before March Break, Limestone District School Board's Director of Education Krishna Burra shared a message with families in the school board, following up on provincial changes and saying those who would feel more comfortable continuing to wear masks should.
Director Burra added in the letter that he and his family personally will continue to wear masks for the time being, and that masks will remain available at schools for staff and students.
As it stands, the mask mandate will be lifted in local schools when students return from March Break on Monday.
Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative