(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

After dragon boat races, the Carnation Ceremony remembers those who have died and those who are fighting cancer. This year, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Friends Abreast Dragon Boat team delivered 400 carnations to the staff at nine public schools, three SASCU offices and the women’s league at the curling rink as a reminder for women to book their mammogram appointments. (File photo)
Salmon Arm dragon boat team gives carnations as mammogram reminder

Breast cancer second leading cause of cancer death among Canadian women

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

Snow started falling early Oct. 23, 2020 to leave Salmon Arm and area with a wintery look. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Snow in Shuswap this early in October rare but no records broken

Environment Canada predicts clear weather in Salmon Arm for election day – Oct. 24

City workers Mike Jamieson and Jamie Greencorn perform the wintery ritual of putting up road closed signs on 10th Avenue SE (also known as Shoemaker Hill) on the morning of Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm’s Shoemaker Hill closed by snow, might still reopen

City staff say steep, winding portion of 10th Avenue SE could see a few more weeks of use

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Thanks to efforts by a Kelowna shelter and Elections BC, anyone who wishes to can vote in the 2020 BC Provincial Election, even if they don’t have a fixed address. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Kelowna group ensures people experiencing homelessness can vote

Shelter supervisor says voting ‘a fundamental right’ even for those without a fixed address

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
Big White receives 21 cm of snow in 24 hours

Resort’s snow base 41 cm deep, one month until opening day

The deer were allegedly shot within Princeton town limits, late at night. Black Press File Photo.
Armed man, in full camouflage, allegedly shoots deer in downtown Princeton

‘The list of charges goes on and on,’ said RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

Most Read