On Monday, March 29, the provincial health officer announced an important change to public health guidance for schools regarding the wearing of non-medical masks by elementary students. Yesterday evening, we received the updated health and safety guidelines from the Ministry of Education and I am writing to share with you the key details.
In accordance with Ministry expectations, all K-12 staff and students in Grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear a mask indoors in schools and on school buses – both within and outside of their learning group. Students in Grades K to 3 are encouraged to wear a mask indoors in schools and on school buses, but are not required to do so.
At the secondary level (Grades 8-12), the updated guidelines will come into effect on Tuesday, April 6, when students return after the long weekend.
At the elementary level (Grades 4-7), where many students are not accustomed to wearing masks indoors, teachers will spend April 6 and 7 helping children adjust to this change, with the goal of building mask wearing into student routines by Thursday, April 8. We suggest you send your child to school in a clean mask, and with a spare mask, that they are used to wearing. Schools will have disposable masks available if students forget their mask.
The guidance regarding mask requirements does not apply to staff, students and visitors in the following circumstances:
- to a person who cannot tolerate wearing a mask for health or behavioural reasons;
- to a person who is unable to put on or remove a mask without the assistance of another person;
- if the mask is removed temporarily for the purposes of identifying the person wearing it;
- if the mask is removed temporarily to engage in an educational activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask (e.g. playing a wind instrument, engaging in high-intensity physical activity, etc.);
- if a person is eating or drinking;
- if a person is behind a barrier; or
- 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 is important.
Please contact the principal of your child’s school if your child cannot wear a mask for any of the exceptions noted above.
We will be formalizing the new requirement at the school level and, in the coming days, will be updating the district Safety Plan document to reflect this change. I know this will be a change for some of our elementary students, and I am deeply appreciative of your continued support in helping us keep our schools healthy and safe.
With the continued roll out of vaccinations across the region, there is reason for optimism in our effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, the increase in cases demands that we continue to follow all established health and safety protocols. Please continue to complete the Daily Health Check and follow province-wide restrictions and advisories. By following all public health measures, we can continue to ensure our schools remain safe and welcoming places for all.
Superintendent of Schools