Despite a new mask rule being introduced at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) earlier this week, hardly any students are following it and there has even been anti-mask graffiti sprayed at schools.

HWDSB trustees voted 10-3 on Monday night in support of what they call a “temporary universal masking requirement”, the only such rule throughout Ontario.

In response, some schools in the area have been hit with anti-mask graffiti and the vast majority of students still choose not to wear masks, sources tell True North.

The trustees stopped short of actually calling the mask rule a mandate and they provided a significant opt-out clause that arguably renders the new rule meaningless.

“Students have unrestricted access to the opt-out process,” writes director of education Sheryl Robinson Petrazzini, in an email to parents, which was shared with True North. “A parent, guardian, or caregiver may complete the Mask Opt-Out form in the Parent Portal on behalf of their children. A paper copy can be made available at the school. They may also let the school know verbally if they prefer.”

A HWDSB staff member, who requested anonymity due to employment concerns, told True North that “mask uptake by students and staff the day after the masking requirement [came into effect] is minimal.”

The staff member was also aware of crews showing up to remove anti-mask graffiti the same day the graffiti was made. “In an organization that takes months to years for work orders to be completed, the speed is breathtaking,” the staff member explained.

One mother of two elementary school students in the region said it’s frustrating to see this push for masks return after over two years of mandates.

“It’s just really sad – sad for the kids, sad for the kids, anybody who is being forced right now to wear the mask or feels the pressure to wear the mask,” says Lisa Donegan Baetz.

She sees the recent four hour board meeting on the issue and the board’s $5000 monthly mask budget as a waste of resources that should instead be going to help students with their actual education and learning loss.

“As a parent, I think this needs to be left to families to decide what’s best for their children,” Donegan Baetz says.

Last month, an attempt to introduce a mask mandate at the Ottawa Carleton District School Board failed to get sufficient votes, even after the proposed motion was watered down to allow significant opt-out clauses.


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