Mask mandate for schools announced

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A change to provincial health guidelines on COVID-19 means masks are now mandatory at schools in British Columbia for all students who can wear them in grades four through 12. 

All staff, adult volunteers and visitors must also wear masks while indoors at school. 

The British Columbia Centre for Disease control made an addendum to the Public Health guides for K-12 Schools on Tuesday, March 30. The new rules, which were effective immediately, will be in place until at least April 19.

Exceptions are permitted to any person who is unable to wear a mask because they do not tolerate it (for health or behavioural reasons); any person unable to put on or remove a mask without the assistance of another person; if the mask is removed temporarily for the purposes of identifying the person wearing it; if the mask is removed temporarily to engage in an educational activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask (e.g. actively playing a wind instrument, high-intensity physical activity, etc.); if a person is eating or drinking; if a person is behind a barrier; and while providing a service to a person with a disability or diverse ability (including but not limited to a hearing
impairment), where visual cues, facial expressions and/or lip reading/movements are important. 

The changes were made following the province’s announcement Monday of a three-week “circuit breaker” with new restrictions to reverse an upward trend in COVID cases.

Island health had additionally sent a letter to all Vancouver Island-area school districts over the weekend stating the region had ben experiencing a high number of coronavirus  cases over the past weeks, and that new cases in schools could be expected to follow. 

Asking families and staff to take strong precautions, the letter warned, “all signs indicate there will be significant numbers of exposures in schools in the weeks to come.”

Gulf Islands Secondary School reiterated that caution in a welcome back from spring break message sent to families Monday.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of daily health checks, that you continue to perform them and that you contact the school office regarding student absences. Absent students are asked to be in touch with teachers regarding missed work, and work they complete at home. Our teachers will ensure that students absent for COVID-related or other illness-related reasons suffer no academic penalty,” the message states.

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