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Should masks be mandatory in a B.C. Grade 3/4 split class?

Last Updated Apr 29, 2021 at 2:32 pm PDT

FILE -- Personal protection equipment is seen on the teacher's desk in classroom in preparation for the new school year at the Willingdon Elementary School in Montreal, on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Teacher of Grade 3/4 split class says it's unfair that only half of her students are required to wear masks

All students in Grade 4 to 12 in B.C. must wear a mask to school, while masks are optional for K to Grade 3 students

Fraser Valley teacher says with only half her class wearing masks, 'it defeats the purpose'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Imagine teaching a class where half the students must wear a mask, and the other half can do whatever they want. The Grade 3/4 split composition is presenting a unique challenge in B.C. in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A teacher in the Fraser Valley, who wishes to remain anonymous, teaches a Grade 3/4 split class.

“I feel like it’s not fair that half the class has to and for the other half, it’s optional,” she said.

She says some of the Grade 3 students bring a mask, but others don’t.

“We also have some that we will provide for them, if they would like to wear them. But they don’t have to wear them,” she added, noting some of the students who do wear masks aren’t perfect.

“There will be multiple times throughout the day where we will have to remind them, ‘It’s not a chin guard, put it above your nose, please.’ or ‘Because you’re done eating now, that means you have to put it back on properly,” she said.

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All students in Grades 4 to 12 in B.C. are required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, except for when they are eating or drinking, or doing something like playing a wind instrument or in P.E. class. There are also exceptions for people who can’t tolerate wearing masks for health or behavioural reasons, or if they are helping someone with a disability of diverse ability where seeing faces is important.

Students up to Grade 3 are encourage to wear a mask indoors, but the province says “mask wearing remains a personal or family/caregiver choice for these students, and their choices must be respected.”

Those rules have been in place for about a month.

The teacher we spoke with says different rules for different students in her class has led to some confusion.

“There’s been a couple comments like, ‘Well, isn’t that person Grade 4? Why don’t they have a mask on?’ I’m like, ‘No, that student’s Grade 3,'” she said.

She says with only half of her class wearing masks, “it defeats the purpose.”

“If only half of them are doing it, what about the other half in the room? I know that they say that you wearing the mask isn’t necessarily protecting yourself, it’s to be protecting those around us. If some of us have to wear them, I feel like everyone should have to wear them in the school,” she said.

NEWS 1130 reached out to several school districts, and only received a written response from the Vancouver School Board.

“Students in kindergarten to Grade 3 are encouraged to wear masks,” it said.

-With files from Ria Renouf