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Vancouver school board mandates masks for K-3 students, citing uptick in COVID among kids

Provincial health order only mandates masks for children in Grade 4 and up
FILE – Grade one students wear masks as they attend class at Honore Mercier elementary school Tuesday, March 9, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

The Vancouver school board has voted in favour of mandatary masks for children in Kindergarten to Grade 3.

The board made the move at a meeting Monday (Sept. 27) evening. Trustee Barb Parrott said that she had not seen any data backing up the province’s decision to only extend the mask mandate down to Grade 4, noting that children below that age are already “encouraged” to wear masks.

“If we view it as Dr. Henry says ‘one more tool’ – to which I agree – then it doesn’t make sense not to have a mask mandate (for younger students),” Parrot said at the meeting, adding that the measure is needed at least until children ages five to 11 can be vaccinated against COVID.

“In the meantime, the numbers of children less than 10 every week who have caught COVID-19 are significantly increasing.”

Trustee Alan Wong said that mandating masks across the board for students would help protect those children who cannot wear masks, as well as their family members.

“We’ve been receiving a number of letters… with regards to not only vulnerable students who cannot wear masks in schools… but there has been a lot of stress, per the letters we have been receiving, from parents of students, who, when the students come home, they’re faced with vulnerable family members as well,” Wong said.

The move comes the day after an open letter was sent to Health Minister Adrian Dix and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside from Vancouver, Surrey, Sooke, New Westminster and Burnaby district parent advisory councils (DPACs).

In the letter, the parents called for a mask mandate for all schoolchildren, with accommodations for those who cannot wear them. The parents also called for a limit on gatherings for young students, enhanced contact tracing, rapid testing for younger students and a vaccine mandate for teachers and school staff.

In addition, the parents asked the province to remove exemptions that allowed for a mask to be removed if a plexiglass barrier is used, proof of vaccination for parents and caretakers entering the school for non-essential reasons, increased ventilation, remote learning options and for exposure notifications to take no more than five days.

READ MORE: ‘It’s really frustrating’: BCTF fears more school closures due to lack of COVID safety measures


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