VANCOUVER -- The BC Teachers' Federation has created new campaigns to help increase the use of face masks in B.C. classrooms.

The BCTF has taken matters into its own hands after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry excluded schools from B.C.’s new mask mandate.

On Saturday, the teachers’ union posted to social media that it is asking for parents’ help to help foster a “culture of mask-wearing.”

The tweet reads, “We need to be doing all we can to ensure we keep each other safe. By talking to your children about wearing masks, you can make a big difference.”

The plea comes after more COVID-19 exposure letters were sent to B.C. families on Saturday, including for five schools in Surrey: Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth and Enver Creek secondary schools, as well as Walnut Road and Coast Meridian elementary schools.

Rani Senghera, of the Surrey District Parents Advisory Council, said parents want to help teachers.

“Parents wanted masks to be mandatory in schools as well,” she said. “I think it's important to start from home because parents are probably the biggest influence on their children.”

Senghera said the PAC recently conducted a survey of nearly 3,000 parents and found 60 per cent of them believe children of all ages should wear masks, while 15 per cent believe it should only be for those in grade four and higher, and five per cent think it should only be for secondary students.

About 20 per cent believe the current plan is sufficient.

The calls for a mask mandate from teachers and parents are not new, and Henry defended her decision to exclude schools from the new policy when she announced it on Thursday.

“Schools are not public, open spaces, you cannot go walk into a school,” she said at the time. “I wouldn't wear a mask sitting at my office. We don't expect children to wear masks sitting at their desks all day long.”

Julia MacRae, of the Surrey Teachers Association, said teachers are feeling worried about catching the virus in schools and believe masks should be mandatory.

“We want to be safe at work and so it doesn't make sense to us that with such a large group of people in relatively small spaces, it would be different than other buildings,” she said.

Currently, students must wear masks in common areas, such as hallways, but do not need to wear them while in the classroom.

In response, the BCTF has also created a new poster for teachers to put in classrooms that reads: In this class, please wear masks.

“The school system has been completely reorganized into cohorts, but that is not a prevention plan, that is a contact-tracing plan. What we want is a prevention plan,” McRae said.