The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is asking parents to have their kids wear masks in the classroom and create “a culture of mask-wearing.”
In a letter sent to parents Tuesday afternoon, BCTF president Teri Mooring said the union is taking this step to keep teachers safe in the classroom setting.
“While masks are not mandatory at all times in schools, we’re hoping you can help us support a culture of mask-wearing,” Mooring writes.
“Some schools have already taken this step. The school community has come together and made mask-wearing normal and expected. It really helps everyone in our schools feel safer. We need to be doing all we can to ensure we keep each other safe. No one wants to bring COVID-19 home to their families.”
Under current guidelines, masks are required in high-traffic areas of schools such as hallways and libraries. But in some cases, students are not wearing masks in those situations if they are with students in their ‘learning cohort’.
The province is finalizing guidelines to require masks in indoor public spaces in B.C.
Schools have been left out of the order because they are not public spaces.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the mandatory mask policy applies to situations where people are in areas with strangers. Schools, meanwhile, are controlled settings.
“Schools are not public spaces where we’re with a variety of different people that we don’t know on a repeated basis,” Henry said.
“What schools have are individual COVID safety plans that meet certain criteria — you’re with the same people every day, you don’t have people walking in and out. Masks are an important part of some areas of schools, in particular when you’re in common areas when passing by people in other cohorts, etc.”
The BCTF has long advocated for a more robust school mask policy, which would include clearer guidance on where masks are required. There has also been a push for making masks required in the classroom.
Adults who deal with multiple cohorts in the school setting are required to wear a mask when with other adults or students. This includes teachers on call, librarians, educational assistants and others.
“BCTF members, your children’s teachers are committed to providing our students with supportive and enriching learning environments. We also need them to be safe. Please help make that happen. We encourage you to talk to your children and encourage them to wear masks,” Mooring wrote.