(Pixabay)

B.C. school staff, older students required to wear masks in ‘high traffic areas’

Exceptions will be made for those who cannot wear masks for medical reasons

Students and staff will be required to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when school starts up again in September, the B.C. education ministry said Monday (Aug. 17).

The rules will apply to middle schools and high schools, where students and staff will have to wear them in “high traffic areas.” In a later statement, the education ministry confirmed that Grade 6 and 7 students, who can attend either elementary or middle schools, will only have to wear masks if they are enrolled in the latter.

“Elementary school students tend to stay with the same classmates and teacher in the same classroom throughout the day, compared to middle and secondary students who tend to have multiple teachers, in a variety of classrooms and with different classmates for different subjects,” the ministry said.

Masks remain option for elementary school students, but the ministry said “non-medical masks are not recommended… due to the increased likelihood they will touch their face and eyes, as well as the required assistance to properly put on and take off their mask.”

The education ministry said “exceptions will be made” for students who cannot wear masks for medical reasons. The “high traffic areas” include buses and in common areas such as hallways, as well as anytime students are outside their learning group and cannot maintain physical distancing.

The ministry said that even when staff and students are wearing a mask, they will still need to maintain physical distance from those outside their learning groups. The groups range from 60 kids for younger grades and 120 in high school.

“Efforts will be put in place to ensure there is not crowding, gathering or congregating of people from different learning groups in a school setting, even if non-medical masks are being worn,” the ministry said.

The province said it will provide funding to buy 1.5 million masks, enough for all students and staff to get two non-medical masks. Manufacturer Canadian Shield has said it will donate 54,500 face shields.

The move comes after weeks of pressure on the provincial government to mandate masks or give parents a better sense of what measures are being taken to keep students safe, especially as B.C.’s COVID-19 cases have begun to spike in recent days. Several provinces, including Ontario and Alberta have mandated masks for students in Grade 4 and up.

One B.C. teenager’s mask mandate petition has gathered more than 5,400 signatures, while a petition against requiring in-person instruction has been signed by more than 34,000 people. Teachers are currently expected to return to school on Sept. 8, while students will come back two days later. Although the government outlined broad guidelines for learning groups, sanitizing, and now masks, individual school districts must release their own plans by Aug. 26.

READ MORE: Alberta to require masks at schools this fall

READ MORE: From masks to cohorting, a guide to back-to-school rules across the country

READ MORE: B.C. to roll out ‘learning groups’ as part of COVID-19 back-to-school plan

READ MORE: Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

READ MORE: B.C. doctors, dentists call on province for mandatory mask rule

READ MORE: B.C. teacher hopes province will change back-to-school plan in fear of COVID transmission


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

90 per cent of Quesnel students return in wake of pandemic

Staff reported the numbers at the first school board meeting of the year

Northern Health working to reduce Online COVID-19 Clinic and Information Line wait times

The health authority says it’s working to add staff to increase call capacity and hours of operation

Vote now for 2020 Quesnel Business Excellence Awards

Online voting is open until Sept. 20

Tolko to sponsor annual nation-wide Orange Shirt Day art contest

The contest for students to design the 2021 shirt closes Oct. 31

New Quesnel-area community forest process moving forward

Cariboo Regional District directors heard an update at their Sept. 11 meeting

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

B.C.’s 1st mental health and addictions minister won’t be seeking re-election

MLA Judy Darcy is the fifth cabinet minister not intending to run in the next election

Vancouver’s shuttered aquarium searching for financial solution amid pandemic

The aquarium needs about $1 million a month to cover its costs

B.C., Alberta sending nearly 300 fire personnel by Friday to help battle wildfires in Oregon

Some 230 firefighters, most from British Columbia but including a number from Alberta, will be deployed Friday

Most Read