Rocky View Schools, Red Deer Public Schools to require masks at school

Carol E. Corker

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Another two Alberta school districts announced mask mandates for students and staff effective immediately in the absence of protocols from the provincial government for schools.

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Rocky View Schools (RVS) and Red Deer Public School District (RDPSD) announced masks will be required starting Tuesday in certain settings for students in pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, as well as staff and teachers. The boards join several others that have introduced mandatory masking without an order from the UCP government.

“We recognize that there will be a variety of opinions on these new measures,” RVS said in a news release signed by board chair Fiona Gilbert and superintendent Greg Luterbach on Monday.

“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.”

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Both districts are rolling out mask guidelines that reflect the rules in place during the 2020-21 school year, with students and staff able to remove masks while seated in a classroom, eating or drinking, and while participating in physical exercise or performance arts.

Although Premier Jason Kenney reintroduced mandatory masking for indoor public spaces and workplaces last week, the measure does not apply to schools.

The Alberta Health website says “schools are not required to implement masking, but school boards will continue to set COVID-19 management policies as they deem appropriate.”

The government does still require face-coverings on public transit, which includes school buses. Neither school district is requiring that masks be worn outdoors.

“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,” RVS says.

RVS serves more than 25,000 students in 51 schools in Airdrie, Chestermere, Cochrane, Crossfield, Springbank and the surrounding areas.

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The RDPSD board also unanimously passed a motion to make their concerns known to the provincial government, according to a news release signed by board chair Nicole Buchanan and superintendent Chad Erickson.

In the motion, the board expresses “significant concerns and frustrations on the decision-making process imposed on school divisions and the lack of leadership by the government related to mask use and other COVID health restrictions within schools, resulting in greater uncertainty and increased division within our communities and across the province.”

RDPSD serves more than two dozen schools and 11,000 students within Red Deer.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange is the MLA for Red Deer-North.

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Mandatory mask measures have previously been implemented by a number of school districts across the province, including the Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District.

As of Friday — when the latest COVID-19 data was released by Alberta Health — 3,060 of the province’s active cases of COVID-19 were among youth aged 19 and younger, or 23 per cent of Alberta’s total active cases.

The COVID-19 vaccines still aren’t authorized for use in children under 12 years old, but the majority of youth aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

Sixty per cent of youth aged 15 to 19 have received two doses of vaccine, while nearly 70 per cent have gotten at least a first dose. Of children aged 12 to 14, 58.8 per cent have been fully immunized and 68.3 per cent have received one shot.

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Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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