Canada/August 11, 2020/
B.C.’s education minister says masks are going to “play a significant role” in schools across the province this September.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Rob Fleming said there are going to be some places where masks are ‘”mandatory” at schools and the province is currently working with school districts to access enough personal protective equipment.
“Government is providing masks to all staff, student and teachers in the school system. That is part of our resource package to start the year,” Fleming said.
“Masks are going to play a significant role come September. We are looking at the approach the different provinces are taking.”
In a recent Leger poll, 73 per cent of parents in B.C. want to see masks mandatory in common spaces at schools such as hallways and cafeterias.
Alberta is making mask-wearing mandatory from Grade 4 to Grade 12 in commons areas. Ontario has announced students in Grade 4 and up will be required to wear masks, including in class. Younger students will be encouraged but not mandated to wear a mask.
National health guidelines suggest students 10 years of age and older wear masks at school.
The province’s health and safety committee is discussing different mask protocols and will have a clear policy in the next few weeks.
“It’s good to observe some of the changes other jurisdictions in Canada are making,” Fleming said.
“We may look to update our mask policy based on advice from the provincial health officer and discussion with stakeholders.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she does not see a situation where students will be required to wear masks in the classroom but she does support a policy where kids wear masks in common areas.
The province will be providing millions of free masks to students, teachers and school staff.
Henry says measures like the removal of furniture in the classroom, staggered starts to the day and one-way flow down hallways will also help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I think that’s one of the things that we need to do right now is socialize the use of masks and help our children understand where and when they use them and how to use them properly,” she said.
“It is a challenge. To think of a young child — 10, 11, 12 — sitting all day in a classroom with a mask on is probably is not realistic,” Henry said.
“We are looking, of course, to making sure that we’re following all of the data on transmission in children and on use of masks in children and we’ll continue to adapt and to adjust as we go forward.”