(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

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

Keep a lookout for monsters around Kitimat during the week leading up to Halloween. (Black Press file photo)
Lions and tigers and…monsters? Oh my!

Find monsters hiding around town during the week leading up to Halloween to be entered for a prize

Liz Thorne is president of the Snow Valley Ski Club, and has been involved with the club and cross country skiing for over 30 years. (Clare Rayment)
In Our Valley: Liz Thorne

Thorne has been involved with the Snow Valley Ski Club for over 30 years

The car was trapped, with its driver inside, in a ditch off Hirsch Creek Main near Onion Lake overnight Monday (Oct. 19). Oct. 20, 2020. Kitimat RCMP photo.
Man found after spending overnight stuck in car in a ditch near Onion Lake

Kitimat RCMP said the man was stuck there overnight for about 10 hours

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
2 years after huge highway acid spill, Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

Most Read