VANCOUVER – The Vancouver School District’s extension of a mask mandate that will include Kindergarten to Grade 3 students starting Monday has sparked calls for more districts in B.C. to follow suit. lack of a province-wide publication
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver School District’s extension of a mask mandate that will include K-3 students starting Monday has prompted more districts in B.C. to follow suit in the absence a province-wide public health order.
The District of Vancouver informed parents of the change in a letter on Wednesday after a unanimous vote of council members concerned about the increase in COVID-19 cases in children.
Vancouver School District President Carmen Cho said in the letter that requiring all students to wear masks will provide an extra layer of protection to limit the spread of the virus.
Provincial health worker Dr Bonnie Henry has resisted calls from parents and teachers to make face covering mandatory for all students, saying ventilation and limitations on mixing between classes in different grades are also important factors in schools.
Henry said on Tuesday that more children aged five to 11 were being diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Eastern Fraser Health Region because they are not eligible for vaccines and due to lower vaccination rates in at least four communities there.
Kyenta Martins, who speaks for the parent-led group Safe Schools Coalition BC, said an increase in cases should prompt a province-wide mask mandate for all children if the goal is to keep students to learn in schools.
“We are asking for better distance learning for those who cannot enter the classroom,” she said. “We are asking for rapid testing. And we continue to ask for transparency and data because the data they put on the website is not accurate.”
Henry dismissed rapid tests as unreliable, including for residents of long-term care facilities earlier in the pandemic, and said on Tuesday that regional health authorities would publish potential COVID-19 exposures in schools on their records. websites so parents have an authoritative source of information.
“It takes time for public health to be notified of a positive laboratory test and to do this important case investigation to understand what settings people were in, where they could have picked it up and where they could potentially pass it on. to others, âshe said. .
CUPE British Columbia, which represents about 30,000 workers in the public education system, said in a statement it applauds the Vancouver board’s decision to extend the mask’s mandate to all students and that it encouraged school trustees across the province to vote for a similar extension.
“Obviously, the Delta variant has changed the situation in schools,” said Karen Ranalletta, president of the union’s provincial chapter.
Mask mandates in schools vary by province. In Alberta, for example, masks became mandatory in indoor public spaces earlier this month, but schools were exempted as school boards still had to set their own policies.
In Ontario, masks are mandatory within Grades 1 to 12. Quebec has focused its requirements on high-risk areas like Montreal, where face coverings must be worn in common areas, while students in grades 5 and above must also wear them in classrooms.
Amy Johnston, who teaches music to Kindergarten to Grade 6 students at a school in Surrey, B.C., said parents and teachers urged Henry to impose masks in schools before the move be taken last March, and that it is now time to extend this mandate to young children. .
âDr. Henry seems to be okay with Vancouver doing it on its own, so there’s no reason other school districts don’t all have emergency meetings to do the same,â she said.
Johnston said she disagreed with the provincial health worker that there was no mixing between the classes because their movements were less restricted without the cohorts that were in place during the last school year.
She said her daughter, who is in kindergarten, willingly wears a mask to school, so there should be no worry that children won’t or can’t use the face coverings to protect themselves.
Parents have not received information on the state of ventilation in schools since the province promised improvements.
The Education Department said all school districts report information on ventilation improvements through their health and safety committees and have been urged to make it available to the public.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 29, 2021.
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press