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School boards issue notice about potential student walkout Friday

A social media campaign has been circulating, which urges students to walk out of their schools at 2 p.m. on Feb. 11 in opposition to mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions
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This image promoting a student walkout Feb. 11 against mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions has been circulating on social media.

In anticipation that students walk out of their schools in protest of COVID-related restrictions, local school boards issued notices to parents this week.

As of mid-afternoon Thursday, there was no indication that protests had been planned, but schools were aware of a social media campaign that urges walkout action at 2 p.m. Friday.

The campaign pushes for an “Ontario school wide walkout” to “End the mask mandates, REP and all restrictions.”

The REP references the Restrictions Exemption Program in Alberta – that province’s version of the vaccine passport, which Alberta eliminated earlier this week. 

Rainbow District School Board issued a letter to parents and guardians on Thursday that acknowledged the social media posts and that some students might decide to participate.

“A walkout is not a school sanctioned event,” according to the letter signed by director of education Bruce Bourget. “Demonstrations of this nature are not permitted on school property.”

Further, he notes that since it is not a school activity, no supervision will be provided once students leave school property. 

In the event students choose to participate, Bourget requests that they do so in a peaceful manner “that does not create concern, expose students and others to risks involving health and safety and hinder the operation of schools.”

He also encourages students who wish to express their views to consider other means, such as writing letters, and that police are aware of the possible walkouts and will be contacted if there are concerns.

At Conseil scolaire catholique Nouvelon, a letter to parents sent on Wednesday and signed by director of education and secretary-treasurer Paul Henry offered a similar caution, in that no supervision will be provided once students leave school grounds. 

“If your child wants to participate in a student demonstration during the school day, your permission is required,” he wrote. “As a reminder, demonstrations of this nature are not permitted on school or board office grounds.

“If your child is not in class and his absence has not been reported, the latter will be counted as an unjustified absence and the usual follow-ups will be undertaken by the school administration team.”

A Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario spokesperson noted that nothing has been confirmed to them of anything taking place at their schools, or at any Sudbury schools, and that it would be business as usual on Friday.

The Convoy to Ottawa 2022 has made a couple passes through the Greater Sudbury area, including a Jan. 28 passby on their way to Ottawa and a slow roll demonstration on Feb. 5. 

A video of the Jan. 28 passby, including a pit stop at Nairn Centre, can be viewed by clicking here

The province reported 44 COVID-related deaths and 445 COVID-19 patients in Ontario intensive care units today. There have been 48 local COVID-related deaths reported since Jan. 1, which surpasses the 47 total deaths recorded in the Sudbury jurisdiction for all of 2021 and 2020. 

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.