Burnaby schools latest to extend mask mandate to children in Kindergarten through Grade 3
Burnaby has joined the list of school districts that will soon be requiring students in Kindergarten through Grade 3 to wear face masks at school.
In a statement Thursday, the Burnaby Board of Education announced that the expanded mask mandate will take effect on Monday, Oct. 4.
“We are hoping the province makes it a provincial mandate, so districts don’t have to do this,” said Daniel Tetrault, the president of the Burnaby Teachers Association. “But in the meantime, we are encouraged that districts are adopting and extending the mask mandate.”
A new order from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has cleared the way for school districts to bring in their own enhanced mask measures, but some parents would like to see the B.C. government be more proactive.
“It feels like unfortunately she’s left each school district to fend for themselves. I really would have liked to see more leadership from her on that," said Kyenta Martins with the Safe Schools Coalition BC. "However, I do appreciate that the school districts now have the autonomy to be able to put in mask mandates."
The Burnaby Board of Education made the decision to expand the mask mandate at a special meeting Thursday morning. The vote in favour of the change was unanimous, according to the board's statement.
Earlier in the week, the Vancouver School Board also voted unanimously to require younger students to wear masks at school. The Surrey Board of Education followed suit on Wednesday.
Province-wide, the mask mandate is only in place for Grades 4 through 12, but teachers and parents have been urging school districts to follow Vancouver's lead and implement their own rules for younger children.
“We are out in Delta and we would like to see K-12 masks as well,” said Scott Lowrey, who has two kids in elementary school. “As adults we have all these precautions and vax passports and all this stuff, but for some reason kindergartens, Grades 1, 2 and 3 are out of that mix.”
North Vancouver mom Alison Verheyde wants action in her child’s school district, too.
“I am really surprised that North Vancouver hasn’t taken this as a positive PR spin to say we hear you, and we can now do it, and we are doing it today,” she said. “Why are the children in North Vancouver treated differently than the children across the bridge? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The three Metro Vancouver school districts' decisions to implement their own mandates come amid a spike in COVID-19 infections among children under age 10 in B.C.
Burnaby's expanded mask mandate will apply to all students while they are indoors at school, unless they are "medically, developmentally, behaviourally or otherwise legitimately precluded" from wearing masks, according to the board's statement.
"Staff will continue to work with students and families in a positive and supportive way regarding mask wearing," the statement reads.
"The board is grateful to Fraser Health’s medical officer for meeting on an urgent basis (Wednesday) evening. Her assurance that masks are an effective layer of protection for all students when used in concert with other health and safety measures informed the board’s decision to promptly implement this new mask requirement for K-3 students."