Parents frustrated with OCDSB delay on back-to-school decisions

Some parents are frustrated a much anticipated meeting adjourned Tuesday night without a decision on back-to-school policies for Ottawa's largest school board, including rules around mandatory vaccination and masks.

School board chair says information from ministry keeps changing, plans to meet again soon

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board ended its meeting before debate could begin on back-to-school policies including mandatory vaccinations and masking for kindergartners. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

Some parents are frustrated a much anticipated meeting adjourned Tuesday night without a decision on several policies for back to school, including rules around vaccination, at Ottawa's largest school board.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) held a special board meeting Tuesday night and had planned to discuss mandating vaccines for school staff, volunteers and visitors and the use of masks in kindergarten.

The in-camera session ran long, however, and the public meeting was adjourned before debate could begin. School board trustees agreed there wasn't enough time for proper discussion.

Many parents were anxious to hear about potential new rules for the school year, which is just two weeks away, as the fourth wave of COVID-19 potentially affects in-class learning.

"It's been a long, long summer. And the fact that we don't have this kind of confidence as parents right now in what the school year is going to look like from OCDSB is extremely frustrating," said Alexandra Duncan, whose daughters will enter Grade 2 and senior kindergarten in September.

Duncan is worried about the delta variant, and one of her daughters has asthma. She wants the board to put in strict measures such as staying in cohorts at recess and suspending extracurricular activities.

WATCH | Parent with kids too young to be vaccinated frustrated by wait: 

Parents frustrated by unclear COVID-19 measures as school start date looms

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Alexandra Duncan, whose daughters will enter Grade 2 and senior kindergarten in September, says it’s been frustrating waiting to learn what COVID-19 safety measures will be in place this fall in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. 1:04

She also supports mandatory vaccines, as well as masks for kindergarten students like her youngest daughter.

"There's just no good argument in my mind as to why staff at schools wouldn't be required to have this [vaccine] to protect children," she said.

"It feels like the adults are not stepping up for kids the way that kids stepped up for adults. Kids gave up so much and they continue to give up so much."

Board to meet again soon 

The board did issue a plan for reopening schools in June, but that could change, according to board chair Lynn Scott.

Scott said changing directives from the provincial government and the spread of the delta variant forced them to wait to discuss back-to-school policies.

Lynn Scott, who chairs the board of trustees, says information from the Ministry of Education continues to change as they wait to make a final call on back-to-school policies. (CBC)

"Last week, it was almost every day, some new information came forward from the Ministry of Education, and there are some pieces that we still don't have the final versions on," she said in an interview on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Wednesday.

"Each one of those things can change how we implement our plan. The basics of it are still there, but it's getting the details right, that really start to matter."

Scott said the board is trying to schedule another meeting as soon as possible.

Sally Bidal, who also has a daughter entering senior kindergarten and another going to Grade 2, hopes the delay helps the board choose a policy support by scientific data and aligned with other institutions.

"They are not public health experts. They are not pediatric specialists, and they should not be making this decision without the support of multiple organizations," said Bidal.


Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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