The province has now made masks mandatory for B.C. students from kindergarten to Grade 3, a move welcomed by the Langley Teachers’ Association (LTA).
Beginning on Monday, Oct. 4, all B.C. students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will be required to wear face masks while at their desks and on buses.
“It was something we have been advocating for since the start of the pandemic,” said Tanya Keer, LTA president. “We have not heard from teachers about whether it’s difficult to get most kids to wear masks, there are some situations where the student and family are refusing to wear masks and we continue to encourage the administration to have conversations with those families about the importance of mask wearing as it relates to the health and safety for everyone.”
The public health office has also committed to releasing a new monthly report that will detail the impact COVID-19 is having on school-aged children.
“This pandemic continues to evolve and so do we,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “We need to make changes to fit the situation as it’s arising. We know the COVID-19 virus is being transmitted more rapidly, particularly to those who don’t have the protection that vaccination offers. This extra measure adds another layer of protection as we navigate this phase of the pandemic.”
Safety guidelines allow options for schools to reduce congestion in hallways, as well as staggering start times and breaks for students. Henry recommended that schools try to enact these policies as best they can.
At a news conference, B.C. Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring welcomed the new mask mandate — the BCTF has called for a K–12 mask mandate since before the start of the school year. Mooring added that she’s grateful for the additional information set to come from the province.
“We’re still working around ventilation information being supplied to schools and families,” Mooring said. “We know that there are places where that’s happening and places where that information is not forthcoming.”
Mooring said she wanted to hear more about in-school vaccination clinics for students aged 12 and up, she also said she wanted to see a province-wide rapid testing strategy for students, including students without symptoms.
When asked about a vaccine mandate for B.C. teachers, Mooring said the BCTF is open to the idea, so long as the privacy of teachers is protected and there are measures in place to accommodate medical exemptions. At this time, there is no vaccine mandate for teachers or school staff.
According to the tracker project which, was started by two moms, Langley has seen school exposures since class went back in session at Alice Brown Elementary, Belmont Elementary, Douglas Park Community, Langley Fundamental Elementary, Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary, Credo Christian High, Credo Christian Elementary, Uplands Elementary, James Kennedy Elementary, D.W. Poppy Secondary, R.C. Garnett Demonstration Elementary, Dorothy Peacock, Fort Langley Elementary, Langley Fundamental Middle/Secondary, Blacklock Fine Arts Elementary, Langley Christian Elementary, and Richard Bulpitt Elementary. (This list includes public schools where LTA members work, and private schools)
The tracker site receives information, official notifications and correspondence from parents and exposed individuals.
The local teachers’ union would also like to see more information made public.
“We have major concerns about the lack of information being shared regarding reporting and notification system this year,” Kerr said. “Teachers need to be included in contact tracing when it comes to cases in their classrooms. They are the ones who knows the interactions between students.”
After the Vancouver School Board voted in a mask mandate Monday, the Langley Advance Times contacted the local school district which said it would not be following suit.
“The Langley School District is aware of the mask mandate change announced by the Vancouver School Board,” said communications manager Joanne Abshire. “Currently, there is no change to mask-wearing measures for students, staff, and visitors in the Langley School District. The district continues to take direction from the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Health Office, and is waiting to hear from the Fraser Health Authority regarding any changes.”
Soon after Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey went with full mask mandates for all grades prior to Friday’s announcement by Dr. Henry.
Late Friday, the Langley district sent a notice to parents and guardians about the change in policy.
“As a district, we recognize that there is increased anxiety in our community due to the number of COVID-19 cases for children ages five to 11. With health and safety a priority for students and staff, we are sharing updated guidelines with families regarding mask wearing in our schools,” superintendent Gord Stewart said.
He noted that the change does not affect adults as they have always been under a mask mandate since the return to school in September.
“We understand this pandemic continues to impact our education system and pose challenges for our families,” he said. “Our district is committed to supporting the health and safety of our students and staff during this ever-changing time.”
– With files from Cole Schisler, Black Press Media
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