Non-medical masks will be mandatory indoors for all students in Grades 4 to 12 as well as all staff in public and private schools throughout B.C.
The Ministry of Education clarified this mask guideline late Tuesday night after Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated Monday this was going to come into effect.
The mask mandate takes effect immediately and includes when students are within and outside of their learning group.
Teachers’ unions, including the Richmond Teachers’ Association, have been calling for mandatory masks for months, as well as for better ventilation in classrooms.
This mask mandate is in light of COVID-19 cases climbing and comes from the office of the Provincial Health Officer, the ministry said in its statement.
“The strengthened mask guidelines is another layer of protection, along with many others in our K-12 health and safety protocols to address community transmission and mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said the Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside, in a statement Tuesday evening.
Masks will also be required on school buses.
Some exceptions will be made, for example, for medical or behavioural reasons, if someone can’t put on a mask without help or when someone is eating or drinking or behind a barrier.
Exceptions will also be made for those who need to have their face uncovered because of a disability, for example, where visual cues, facial expressions or lip reading is necessary.
Students in kindergarten to Grade 3 are also “strongly encouraged” to wear masks.
There have been about 100 COVID-19 exposures in Richmond schools since September, but no known transmissions, according to district superintendent Scott Robinson.