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Coronavirus: Lethbridge schools prepare for mandatory masks

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WATCH ABOVE: Some Lethbridge parents continue to express concern over a perceived lack of COVID-19 preparation heading into the new school year. As Emily Olsen reports, school division officials say they feel confident with the supplies and health guidelines provided by the province – Aug 6, 2020

Alberta School Councils Association president Brandi Rai says despite this week’s announcement that masks will be mandatory this year for Alberta students in grades four to 12, many parents are still concerned by the lack of preparation for COVID-19.

Read more: Alberta Grade 4-12 students, teachers will be required to wear masks in schools this fall

“We can put these measures in place. We can say, ‘Social distance when you can,’ and, ‘We’re going to do additional cleaning.’ But do those class sizes support those additional procedures?” Rai asked. 

“Because when we look globally at countries that have opened and maybe had to reclose because of outbreaks, if you look at their advice, they’re saying, ‘Small class sizes, PPE, additional cleaning,’ and they’re putting the money towards that.”

Lethbridge School Division superintendent Cheryl Gilmore says she supports the government’s decision and is confident with the preparations made for September.

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She adds the division is still awaiting shipment of disposable masks from the province and is unsure whether it will arrive before the first day.

Students will be asked to have reusable masks as part of school supply lists.

“Even with the… [masks] distributed by the province, certainly masks that each student would have as part of their own school supplies would be important in case a student forgets their mask or a mask gets soiled throughout the day,” Gilmore said Thursday.

The superintendent says the school division will also receive masks and face shields for staff from the province, as well as hand sanitizer.

The school division had already put in orders for PPE prior to the announcement.

“So certainly, the province sending more is welcome as well, because that will help replenish our supplies as we move further into the year,” Gilmore said.

Rai says those supplies are only part of the battle. She stresses that a focus on getting all kids back to school safely also means getting parents and teachers back to work with preparation for sick leaves.

Read more: COVID-19: Hinshaw says Albertans should know government supported her back-to-school recommendations

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“If we want to look at the health of our entire community and province, education is a foundational piece that we should be investing in,” Rai explained. “Why are we not making sure that we get this right the first time?”

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