There was some good news in the education sector Friday morning, according the Richmond Teachers Association (RTA) – but it is news that could have come sooner.
The provincial government has expanded the mask mandate to include staff and students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 as of Monday, Oct. 4.
Previously, masks were only required for staff and students from Grades 4 to 12.
“This is a good news story,” said Liz Baverstock, president of the RTA, which has been calling for masks for K-12 students.
“It seems like all the pressure that the BCTF, local unions, parents, have been putting on the province, that they finally have decided that they do need to put in some additional measures, and this is the additional measure they chose to put in at this time. So (it’s) good news.”
However, Baverstock said she would have liked to have seen masks required for all grades sooner, given the Delta variant and the fact that many students still aren’t eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s been exceedingly frustrating that we had to continually talk about this. What our message was, is that we didn’t know what September would bring… We didn’t need to get to this point, with rising case numbers and the anxiety growing. What we wanted to do is, start with this, rather than wait until you get to a place where you’re reacting. We wanted, really, a proactive (position) on masks.”
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the order will be in place “for the remainder of this school term,” as an added layer of protection to help reduce the risk of transmission in schools and classrooms.
She noted the rise in cases among school-aged children, and that officials have listened to the concerns of parents, teachers and students as we
The announcement comes after three Lower Mainland school districts voted this week to expand the provincial mandate to kids in Kindergarten to Grade 3.
The Burnaby school board was the latest to move beyond provincial regulations on Thursday night, following similar moves by school boards in Surrey and Vancouver.
Henry said the province will also be releasing a new report, starting this month, on how COVID-19 affects school-aged children.
That report will be released monthly.
It’s information that will be helpful for the public, employees and parents, Baverstock noted.
“If this information is not shared but it is available to people, it shakes people’s confidence. So transparency helps, even if it makes people ask more questions and it might make people ask for more. But that’s okay – I think that’s a better place to be than for people to be creating their own narrative.”
But she noted that she would have liked to have also seen news on additional funding – such as for staffing, ventilation improvements and cleaning – included in Friday’s announcement, as well as a postponement of the foundation skills assessment test for Grade 4 to 7 students as what’s needed right now is “stability in classrooms.”