Back-to-school shopping in Airdrie, Alta., isn’t just about pencil crayons and scissors. Now, students will have to make sure they have masks again.
Rocky View Schools (RVS) let parents know on Monday morning it has changed the rules.
Masks are now mandatory for all students and staff — with some exceptions — and that’s not sitting well with some parents.
“I disagree with it. We pulled our children out of public school based off of the mask mandates. I believe that children and adults, we need to have access to see people’s faces to understand and learn,” said Airdrie mom Alisa Benwell.
Masks won’t be required outdoors at Rocky View Schools or when participating in physical exercise and music.
Masks for all students and staff can also be removed indoors while:
- engaging in instruction in a classroom
- consuming food or drink
- participating in band or arts performances
Rocky View Schools surrounds the west, north and east boundaries of Calgary. It’s the fifth-largest school division in Alberta.
Trustees in Rocky View Schools voted at a special board meeting in late August in favour of not introducing a mask mandate.
In a letter to parents on Monday, Rocky View Schools said the decision to make masks mandatory was to “align with new provincial health measures.”
“RVS will continue to monitor the evolving situation, and the new masking measures will be reviewed when there are changes in the provincial directions related to masking,” read the letter dated Sept. 6.
“We recognize that there will be a variety of opinions on these new measures. RVS continues to find a balanced and thoughtful approach as we support the social, emotional, physical and learning needs of our students while addressing provincial efforts to protect our health-care system and reduce transmission of COVID-19.”
On Friday, the province announced that masks are mandatory in all indoor public spaces and workplaces, except schools. It’s still up to school boards to make that call.
A spokesperson for Support our Students (SOS) worries about the inequity that creates between different school divisions.
“Having it downloaded to school boards disproportionately affects students that aren’t in the metro ridings with stronger policies,” said SOS communications director Wing Li.
Airdrie mom Amber Bertram has a vaccinated 13-year-old and an unvaccinated eight-year-old.
“My husband and I are both vaccinated too, so it just feels like we’re being punished because other people aren’t vaccinated,” Bertram said.
Paige Condon is starting Grade 6 at an RVS school. She and her mom have no problem with wearing masks again.
“It’s doesn’t bother me. It just makes the cases go down so we don’t have to continue wearing them after,” Paige said.
Katherine Hatton’s mom is a retired school teacher in Wheatland County. She said it’s important to protect families and teachers by wearing masks in schools.
“It’s mandatory in workplaces, and it’s mandatory in malls. So schools — it just makes sense because this is a perfect petri dish,” Hatton said.
“Kids are still going to be kids. They are still going to see their friends and go to parties, but if we can make it as careful and safe as possible, then I think it’s totally fine that they are wearing masks. I mean it’s for eight hours of wearing a mask. If you’re outside, take the mask off.”
Other school divisions
Foothills School Division south of Calgary posted on Friday that masks are now mandatory, stating “it is aligning with provincial health measures.”
Golden Hills School Division said Monday that mask use “continues to be voluntary,” noting that it encourages families and staff who wish to wear a mask to do so.
Alberta Education said data indicates that the COVID-19 risk to children is low.
“Masking will not be universally required but may be recommended as one of several temporary interventions for respiratory outbreaks,” it said.