OTTAWA -- Trustees at Ottawa’s largest public school board have voted against a motion to make masks mandatory for young children.

After lengthy debate Tuesday night, trustees at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board defeated the motion 8-4. The board's guidance for children from kindergarten to Grade 3 remains the same: masks are strongly recommended, but not required.

Katherine Ogilvie is a parent and early childhood educator. She doesn’t believe mandatory masks will work for younger kids.

“We have a hard enough time getting that age group of kids to not put their hands in their mouth, and not eat the glue,” she said. “So expecting them to put masks on and leave them in place, and not touch the outside and not touch the person next to them and then touch the outside…or throw it on the floor…or use it as a catapult, it’s something that’s not achievable.”

Ogilvie also runs a home daycare with five children who are all under the age of four. None are required to wear a mask. She says there are other ways to stay safe.

“I think that if everybody is careful. We’re still washing our hands. We’re keeping our kids home when they are sick. Then that should be enough within a classroom setting to at least keep it at a manageable risk,” she said.

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustee Donna Blackburn brought forward the motion to Tuesday night’s board meeting, to make masks mandatory for younger elementary school kids. Right now, students in kindergarten to grade three are encouraged, but not required, to wear a mask.

“From my perspective, the benefits of making them mandatory for everyone far outweigh the negative aspects that there may be,” Blackburn said before Tuesday night's meeting. “I’ve heard from teachers. I’ve heard from parents. As a trustee, I hear from all kinds of people. The message I’m getting is that they would feel more comfortable if the masks were mandatory for everyone.”

 Medical Officer of Health and Eastern Ontario Health Unit CEO Dr. Paul Roumeliotis disagrees with the mandatory mask rule. He says kids that young will be too distracted by the mask and therefore not be able to wear it properly for long periods of time. 

“We believe that in those situations, physical distancing is the better approach,” he says. “If a child can wear it in a proper way, there’s not a problem. We highly recommend it. But I don’t think making it mandatory, you will not be able to get an even playing field. Different kids, different age groups, have different developmental abilities.”

And although some parents say their kids can, and would wear a mask all day, most still believe making it a rule is a bad idea. Including Ogilvie.

“To make it mandatory for them, it would just set them up to just fail. Which is not fair.”