WINNIPEG - Two Manitoba school divisions have announced plans for a mask mandate for their schools when they reopen in September.
Seven Oaks School Division superintendent Brian O’Leary says face coverings will be required for all staff, students, and visitors — both indoors and on school buses — and the division will make disposable masks available for those who need them. All staff and students will also be expected to screen for symptoms of COVlD-19 every day and to stay home if they have symptoms. The division says it’s optimizing school ventilation systems for more frequent air exchange, and plans to open up more spaces and stagger lunch breaks and other activities to minimize crowding.
Meanwhile, Louis Riel School Division superintendent Christian Michalik says the division is hoping to achieve a collective agreement on extra measures to address concerns about potential virus activity and cohorts with low vaccination rates.
Michalik says all staff and students will need to wear masks throughout the day, and that this will be particularly important for students who were born before 2009 and aren’t yet eligible to be vaccinated. The division says schools will provide “mask-breaks” for students when two metres of physical distancing is possible. LRSD says the decision is based on advice from its legal counsel as well as the Public Health Agency of Canada. But Michalik says it plans to also consult with school leadership, its teachers' association, local labour union groups, and parent council reps in the days and weeks ahead.
The LRSD plans to provide “medical-grade” masks to all staff, students, and visitors in both schools and school buses. Currently, the LRSD has more than 400,000 medical masks of different sizes on hand.
The province released its Maintaining Safe Schools guidance for K to Grade 12 students, which gives a green light for full-time in-person classes, which resume on September 7, with schools reopening with a Caution (Yellow) Pandemic Response Level.