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Richmond Teachers Association wants masks for K-12

Vancouver School Board voted this week to extend the provincial mask mandate to include K-3 students in that district
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The Richmond Teachers Association wants to see masks mandated for K-12. Currently in B.C. students in Grades 4 to 12 are required to wear masks.

The president of the Richmond Teachers Association (RTA) wants to see a mask mandate in place for younger students.

Liz Baverstock, noting the issue is “urgent,” said she believes a mask mandate that includes younger students is something teachers in Richmond and across B.C. want to see.

The RTA also wants “the (Richmond) Board of Education to take immediate action to ensure a mask mandate is implemented K to 12.”

The Vancouver School Board (VSB) passed a motion Monday night to extend the provincial mask mandate to include all students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 – the first school in the district to go beyond the provincial policy.

Currently, the provincial mandate only requires masks be worn by students in Grades 4 to 12 in indoor areas, along with all staff members and visitors.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the teachers in the classroom, and the kids in the classroom. Let’s not talk about this anymore… There is risk. These are the students who cannot be vaccinated at this time. So why wouldn’t we have the mandate? It’s illogical, from a teacher’s perspective,” Baverstock said.

In addition to the risk posed by the Delta variant, there are also more kids in classrooms this year compared to last year when many in younger grades were learning from home, she said.

However, while VSB has taken the step to mandate masks for K-3 students, Baverstock said it would be “much easier for everybody” if it was mandated province-wide.

“This (conversation) will be happening in every single district across the province. Local unions are asking for this. It’s being asked for at the provincial steering committee by the BCTF. This is unnecessary work that is now putting on every single district and every single local union. That doesn’t make sense to me. We’re in this together. Let’s put in this precaution…at the provincial level.”

The Richmond Board of Education is “continuing to monitor the situation closely,” according to board chair Sandra Nixon.

She added that Richmond School District will also continue to follow all provincial health recommendations.

“We are aware of provincial discussions on this subject and are seeking the most recent information from our local health officials regarding Richmond’s particular context. We will continue to monitor the situation closely,” said Nixon in an email to the Richmond News.

“Although mask wearing for Kindergarten to Grade 3 is not mandated, there is already a high percentage of students in these grades in Richmond who are wearing masks voluntarily,” Nixon said.

She noted that while the board has received some emails referencing the VSB motion, it continues to hear “a wide range of differing perspectives from parents regarding the use of masks” in Richmond’s schools.

Should provincial guidance change, said Nixon, the district “will ensure these changes are implemented at the school level.”

Meanwhile, B.C. resumed sharing information about possible COVID-19 exposures at schools online as of Tuesday, if a student or staff member attended the school while infectious.

While health authorities will post the “potential exposure events” on their websites, letters won’t be sent out to schools, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Tuesday.