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COVID-19: Face masks for Alberta students, school staff to be delivered by Friday

Click to play video 'Hinshaw addresses questions about Alberta’s return to school plan' Hinshaw addresses questions about Alberta’s return to school plan
Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw addresses questions regarding the province’s return to school as students get ready to head back to class.

Thousands of non-medical face masks will be delivered to Alberta schools by end of day Friday, Aug. 28, the government said on Friday, as part of the province’s COVID-19 school re-entry plan.

“By the end of the day today, every school division should have received their shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) in advance of the 2020-21 school year,” a statement from Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard said.

“Alberta remains the only province in Canada to directly provide school authorities with PPE for their students, teachers and school staff.”

Read more: COVID-19: How Alberta’s 4 biggest school boards are planning for substitute teachers

The government announced earlier this month it would be providing two reusable, non-medical masks for every student and staff member in the province’s schools. At the time, it said it would be ordering 1.7 million masks.

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The province also made masks mandatory for all students in Grades 4 to 12, however, some school boards have made it mandatory for all grades, with exceptions.

Read more: Vast majority of Alberta’s masks for schoolchildren made in China and Mexico

In addition to the masks, each teacher and staff member will be getting a face shield and schools will each get two contactless thermometres and a total of 466,000 litres of hand sanitizer will be sent out to schools.

“Next week as schools begin re-opening their doors to their students, they will do so with the PPE they need to ensure the safety of their staff and students,” the ministers said.

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“This PPE, combined with Alberta’s robust school re-entry plan and health guidelines, will help support a successful return to school.”

Click to play video 'Masks mandatory in all K-12 Calgary public and Catholic schools' Masks mandatory in all K-12 Calgary public and Catholic schools
Masks mandatory in all K-12 Calgary public and Catholic schools

According to Darlene Unruh, an educational director with the Calgary Board of Education, teachers will be responsible for distributing the masks out to their students.

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“The teachers would have received their masks upon starting yesterday from their principals and as staggered entry begins,” Unruh said. “Teachers will be distributing those masks to their students.”

“We also have some disposable masks in the event that children or staff feel more comfortable wearing a disposable mask.”

Unruh said CBE schools will be posting their re-entry plans on their websites on Friday and parents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with them ahead of the first day of school.

School staff took to social media on Friday criticizing masks they say were provided by the government. They posted they were too big and didn’t adequately cover their faces.

Twitter user Erin James shared a video of her putting a large, white mask on that didn’t cover her nose or mouth, with the caption “Rachel [Notley] wouldn’t have given us these useless masks.”

Read more: COVID-19: How Alberta’s 4 biggest school boards are planning for substitute teachers

Ministry of Education press secretary Colin Aitchison took to Twitter in response, saying the “ill-fitting” masks shown in videos and photos were “not procured or provided by government.”

“The masks being provided by the province come in several sizes to ensure that staff and students have proper fitting masks,” Aitchison said.

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He also provided photos of the two styles of masks the government is giving to schools — the majority of which are being provided by Old Navy, the others from IFR Workwear.

“Individual school authorities may have provided their own masks in addition to the provinces, but these ill-fitting ones are not from the government,” Aitchison said.

Students will be heading back to classrooms under re-entry Scenario 1 in September, which means near normal operations with some health measures.