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BCTF long-demanded mask policy in schools under new debate in Victoria

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Jan 30, 2021 at 1:34 pm PST

(CITYNEWS/Tony Fera)

BCTF says its starting to make some headway on its long-standing demands for a mask-mandate in schools

Terri Mooring says the province is reviewing their latest pitch within the Ministry of Education's steering committee

The Teachers Federation has been demanding in-class mask-wearing since the start of the school year in September

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The BC Teachers Federation says it believes it’s finally making some headway with Victoria in its demand for a mandatory mask policy in schools.

BCTF president Teri Mooring says the Ministry of Education’s steering committee is now reviewing its latest pitch for mandatory masks, saying they expect an answer sometime this coming week — something she says is long overdue.

“There’s some really problematic wording within the ministry guidelines. One is that elementary school masks aren’t recommended. That’s been interpreted to mean that that they’re not allowed,” she says. “We know that’s not the case, but that’s the interpretation somewhere.”

Mooring explains, in the province, some districts have gone “above and beyond” what is required by encouraging mask, while other districts discourage the policy, worrying it will be going against guidelines.

“So this discrepancy is causing so many problems,” she says. “Consistent messaging would be extraordinarily helpful.”

But Mooring adds the confusion in schools does not end with the mask policy. Rules around physical distancing are also unclear.

“We know physical distancing in most of our classrooms is not possible. We just have too many students in them. Making masks even more important.”

Mooring says the BCTF’s messaging is consistent with Canada’s Public Health Agency recommending anyone above the age of 10 wear a mask.

“The BCTF messaging is aligned with almost every province in the country. B.C. is a real outlier when it comes to mask-wearing. We’re hoping to rectify that. But with the new variant, it’s becoming even more critical — in our view — that mask-wearing happen at all times in school, except when students and teachers are eating or drinking.”

The BCTF has been pressing for mandatory mask-wearing in schools since the resumption of in-class learning in September.