The Surrey School District is once again stepping up its COVID-19 safety protocols, expanding a mandatory mask mandate to include students in Grades 4 to 7 and older students in certain additional situations.
High school students had already been mandated to wear masks in common areas under provincial safety guidelines.
Read more: New B.C. COVID-19 school exposures in 2021
“It’s good news to get clear advice on masks, it’s also a sign that COVID is still alive and well and out there, and the fact that health believes we need to take additional measures specifically in Surrey means there’s still great cause for concern,” district superintendent Jordan Tinney said.
The new order from Fraser Health’s medical health officer will require all K-12 staff and all students Grades 4 to 12 to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, including when they are with their learning groups in classrooms.
The order is effective immediately.
There are exceptions for students with a psychological, behavioral or health condition; or a physical, cognitive or intellectual impairment, people who can not don or remove a mask without assistance and for people communicating with individuals who have a learning impairment.
Masks can also be removed to eat or drink, and when teachers are instructing students from a distance of more than two metres.
Masks are also being “strongly recommended” for students from Kindergarten to Grade 3.
The move follows months of pressure from teachers who have been calling on the province and health officials for a system-wide mask mandate.
“Surrey’s situation clearly, given the level of cases in Surrey, the level of variant of concern cases in Surrey requires additional layers of protection,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
The province began immunizing Surrey educational staff against COVID-19 last weekend, using supplies of the AstraZeneca/SII COVIDSHIELD vaccine, with the goal of administering 8,500 shots by April 1.
Earlier this month, the Surrey School District rolled out a suite of additional safety protocols amid growing COVID-19 case numbers in the Fraser Health region.
The Surrey district, B.C.’s largest, has been particularly hard hit by exposures from the virus.
At the time, superintendent Jordan Tinney said the district had sent out more than 2,000 exposure notifications since the start of the school year, including 91 asking entire classes to self-isolate.
Just eight schools had not received a single notification prior to March 14.
With files form Kristen RobinsonView link »