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Masks will be mandatory in B.C. schools for teachers, staff, and most students

This is a significant update to plans a previously outlined by B.C. officials
Teacher wearing a PPE mask in a classroom. File photo

It appears school districts across Metro Vancouver and the entire province can expect to see masks in all of its affiliated schools when the school year begins on Sept. 10.

The B.C. Ministry of Education announced today (Aug. 17) that masks will be required for teachers and staff in all public schools across the province during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as middle and secondary school students, in high-traffic areas like buses, common areas such as hallways, or anytime outside of their learning cohort and physical distancing can not be maintained.

In its release, the ministry does not list elementary school students as those who will be required to don a face-coving next month.

The government also says it’ll provide funding for the purchase of 1.5 million masks, which is said will be enough for ‘every public-school staff member and student to have at least two masks.’

However, like most other places where masks are required, exceptions will be in place for those who can’t wear a face covering for medical reasons.

“The guidelines also cover the key components of delivering K-12 education during the pandemic, including curriculum, report cards, supports for students with disabilities/diverse abilities, and finance and operations,” reads the province’s release.

“Even when wearing a mask, staff and students will still be required to maintain physical distance from people outside of their learning group. 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. Schools will also ensure non-medical masks are available for staff if someone should become ill while at school.”

This is an update to the operational guidelines put in place by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who’s said many times the risk of any potential spread of COVID-19 amongst children is little to none at this point of the pandemic.

Canadian Shield, an Ontario-based personal protective equipment manufacturer, recently announced its donation of 54,500 additional face shields for K-12 schools in B.C., adding to the PPE inventory the province says will be available for students and staff.

B.C.’s Ministry of Education lists other health and safety guidelines for back-to-school on Sept. 10, which is two days after its regularly scheduled start date when teachers and staff will be given tutorials and sessions on COVID-19 safety moving forward.

This includes:

  • Increased cleaning of high-contact surfaces like doorknobs, keyboards, desks and chairs
  • Increased hand hygiene with all students, staff and visitors being required to clean their hands before boarding school buses and entering school buildings, before and after eating, using the washroom and using playground equipment
  • School districts may also install transparent barriers for people who have more contact with others, such as front-desk staff, bus drivers or food services staff, where appropriate

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