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Masks mandatory in B.C. schools through April 19

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 12:08 PDT, Wed March 31, 2021

All students in Grade 4 to 12 must wear masks in B.C. schools.

The new mandate was released yesterday following provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s remarks at Monday’s COVID-19 press conference. At that time, she said guidance would be updated “to support mask wearing” but did not explicitly say they would be mandatory.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) says that, effective immediately, all adults and students above Grade 4, with few exceptions “should wear a non-medical mask or face covering at all times while indoors at schools.”

The BCCDC website says people do not need to wear masks in the following situations:

• If they can’t tolerate them for health or behavioural reasons

• If they can’t put on or remove a mask on their own

• If they are behind a barrier

• If they are eating or drinking

• 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.

Masks can also be removed temporarily to identify a person, or if a person is engaging in some educational activities such as actively playing a wind instrument or taking part in high-intensity physical activity.

Staff, adult volunteers and Grade 4 to 12 students should also wear a mask at all times while on a bus, except in the following cases:

• A bus driver does not need to wear a mask while driving

• Anyone who cannot tolerate a mask for health or behavioural reasons

• Anyone who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own

• A mask can be removed temporarily to identify the person wearing it

• A mask can be removed while eating or drinking

Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 are encouraged to wear masks, but are not required to do so.

“No student should be prevented from attending or fully participating in school if they are not wearing a mask,” according to the document from the BCCDC.

The guidance is only in place until April 19, and it will be reviewed at that point.

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