Masks remain mandatory in Calgary Catholic, public schools as COVID-19 cases rise

Click to play video: 'Alberta government releases COVID-19 health guidelines ahead of start of school' Alberta government releases COVID-19 health guidelines ahead of start of school
The Alberta government has released COVID-19 health guidelines ahead of the school year. As Christa Dao reports, masking and social distancing will not be required. – Aug 13, 2021

All students and staff at Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District schools will still be required to wear facemasks indoors when the school year starts.

In a notice posted on the CBE’s website, Chief Supt. Christopher Usih said the board “will mandate masking indoors for all staff and kindergarten to Grade 12 students for the start of the 2021-22 school year.”

Read more: Alberta releases back-to-school COVID-19 guidance for 2021-22

Usih said the decision was made in light of the increase in COVID-19 infections, as well as Calgary’s vaccination rate for those aged 12 to 19.

“This decision will be reviewed before the end of September and will consider any further direction from the chief medical officer of health, Alberta Education and existing active case counts in the Calgary zone,” he said.

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“Existing mask guidance, including exemptions, will be applied in the same manner as occurred during the previous school year. We are currently updating this guidance document and will provide details later in August. ”

Click to play video: 'CBE students on modified calendar return to class Tuesday' CBE students on modified calendar return to class Tuesday
CBE students on modified calendar return to class Tuesday – Aug 17, 2021

The CCSD updated its back-to-school handbook this week, to also include a mandatory mask clause for all students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

Health monitoring will also be in place, as well as enhanced handwashing, sanitizing and physical distancing where possible, the board said.

“When we implement a health measure that is greater than what is mandated by Alberta Health, it is because we believe there is sufficient research from other sources, such as Health Canada, CDC, or WHO to suggest it is a reasonable strategy and is in the best interests of staff, students, and our school communities,” Chief Supt. Bryan Szumlas said in the notice.

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“As many individuals are experiencing different levels of anxiety/stress, it is imperative that we all use good judgement and be considerate of individuals. Concerns may be brought forward to your child’s school administration.”

The CBE said it will also have the following health measures in place:

  • Students and staff will still be expected to use the daily checklist to identify if they should attend or stay home
  • Staying home when sick
  • Proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high-traffic/touch areas
  • Enhanced ventilation in schools
  • Classroom cohorts in kindergarten to Grade 6
  • No unscheduled visitors, volunteers or external partners will be permitted in schools at the start of the school year
  • Public use or rentals of school facilities outside of school hours will be limited until January 2022

The province released its back-to-school plan last week, and removed the mandate for all indoor school spaces, except on buses.

Before the province’s plan was revealed, the CBE said on Aug. 11 it planned to implement its own mask mandate.

Read more: Edmonton school boards release back-to-school plans for 2021

The CBE said, in line with the provincial guidelines, schools will no longer notify close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases. In addition, lockers and change rooms will be available, band and sports will go ahead, schools can be used for evening and weekend activities, and limited off-site activities will be allowed to go ahead.

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“We all play a role to ensure our return to school is as safe as possible and that we minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and workplaces,” the board said.

“The CBE has and will continue to encourage all eligible employees to get vaccinated.”

As of Tuesday, there were 5,627 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 407 new infections having been reported in the previous 24 hours.

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