Bundling up: Montreal school sets complex uniform rules for pandemic winter of open windows
MONTREAL -- The administration of a Montreal high school had to clarify their uniform policy on Wednesday after new COVID-19 safety regulations had left students confused as to what they could wear in classrooms with open windows.
Royal West Academy's new health regulations, introduced earlier this month, are meant to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection for students and teachers.
To avoid air stagnating in classrooms that could increase infection risk, the English Montreal School Board decided to instruct schools to periodically open windows and allow air to flow, despite the oncoming winter.
That can bring extra complications in a school with a strict dress code, however. When the new measures were put in place, some oversights caused confusion.
The dress code at RWA had already been relaxed at the beginning of the school year: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the school’s uniform stock wasn’t complete at the start of the year,” a spokesperson from the EMSB said in a statement.
Students were therefore allowed to show up to class with RWA-branded sweatshirts and sweatpants instead of their usual classroom attire.
“They had to make allowances because not everyone had a complete uniform," the statement read.
During its latest meeting, however, the school's governing board clarified that rule again -- this time because of the onset of winter and the cold air circulating inside.
Under RWA’s uniform policy, students will still be allowed to bundle up when they feel cold, but only in certain ways.
They will be able to wear RWA sweatshirts and coats -- but they are also required to arrive in class in full uniform. Once they sit down and class has started, they will be able to add layers, the school said.
The school also specified a few more ways students can keep warm. RWA offers both pants and kilts in its uniform options, under which, the school reminded students, they can wear thermal protection such as tights or thermal underwear.
On days when students have gym class, they can also keep their exercise uniform on during class time.
The decision did not meet much opposition from parents, said governing board chair David Stolow.
“It hasn’t been brought to the governing board,” Stolow said in an interview.
He explained that there are no hard rules or temperature thresholds under which students are allowed to bundle up, but that “everybody is working under the premise and the assumption that the teachers and students are going to act reasonably.”
While parents have not been pushing back against opening windows, the reason they have to be opened in the first place is still an issue.
“Nobody has complained about, to my knowledge, ‘Why are you keeping the windows open’?” Stolow explained.
“The issue is ‘Why don’t we have proper air purification systems?’”
Since Royal West Academy is a public school, governed by the EMSB, it's not able to make independent decisions about the building or whether to install air purifiers.
“It’s not our physical property to make decisions about,” said Stolow.
So far, the board hasn't refused the idea of purifiers, but it hasn't taken action either (it has said in recent weeks it's studying its infrastructure needs). Stolow said the parents have expressed concern about air purifiers, but without much success.
“What’s happened to date is that there have been no decisions taken by the EMSB, and parents are saying ‘Well, that’s not acceptable to us and we would like you to act faster,’” he said.