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B.C. Education Minister not budging on mandatory masks in elementary schools

Last Updated Mar 25, 2021 at 1:08 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s Education Minister is not offering much hope to people still demanding stronger safety measures in schools.

Despite mounting pressure to make masks mandatory for younger kids, Jennifer Whiteside continues to insist that masking is a personal choice, to be made by families.

“In-school transmission continues to be very, very low, so, as we have done since the beginning of this pandemic, we can rely on the advice and guidance and directions and orders of our public health officials and on this issue, it’s no different. We will continue to do that,” she says.

There is a mask requirement for middle and secondary school students in indoor areas in BC. However, they can be taken off when a student is sitting or standing at their seat or workstation in a classroom, or when they are eating and drinking.

All staff from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are also required to mask up.

Whiteside’s comments come the same day teachers and other support workers in the Surrey school district started getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We, of course, need to continue to be vigilant with the health and safety plans that we have in place across our K-to-12 system. There are additional, particular measures going to be in place when kids come back from spring break to make sure that we’re managing those safety plans appropriately.”

Trustees, administrators and union leaders have told NEWS 1130 efforts to implement stronger safety plans have been discouraged because they fall out of line with provincial health guidelines.

The Surrey School District has consistently recorded the highest number of people testing positive for the virus in B.C.