Chilliwack school district superintendent clarifies confusing amended mask rules for schools announced March 29, 2021. As of March 30, all students in Grades 4 to 12 in Chilliwack are required to wear masks. (Metro Creative photo)

Chilliwack school superintendent clarifies amended pandemic mask rules

Masks now required in schools for all students in Grades 4 to 12, and for all staff in all schools

Up until Tuesday, middle and high school students were required to wear masks in schools while no such mandate was in place for elementary-aged children.

But Monday, some confusion arose for kids in Grades 4 and 5.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that her public health order was amended to “support and encourage students down to Grade 4 to wear masks while at school.”

Then the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) called masks in schools “mandatory” for students in Grades 4 and up.

Dr. Henry further muddied the water in an interview on CBC radio Tuesday morning stating that she was revising the public health guidance to include mask wearing down to Grade 4 “and encouraging mask wearing for younger grades…. This is not an order. It’s public health guidance.”

So which is it for Chilliwack families?

Chilliwack School District’s acting superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam told The Progress that they are considering it an order, and that masks are mandated for the Grades 4 and 5 now as well.

“Masks now required for all Kindergarten to Grade 12 staff and all students in Grades 4 to 12 in schools,” he said via email. “Effective Tuesday, March 30, our district will begin implementation of an Order of the Medical Health Officer, specific to face coverings in B.C. schools.

Arul-pragasam’s interpretation of the provincial guidance means all students in Grades 4 to 12 and all staff in all schools are required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, including when they are with their learning groups.

Exceptions include:

• If an individual is unable to wear a face covering because of a psychological, behavioural or health condition; or a physical, cognitive or intellectual impairment;

• If an individual is unable to put on or remove a face covering without the assistance of another person;

• While communicating with a person who has a hearing impairment;

• When an individual is actively eating or drinking.

“For Kindergarten to Grade 3 students, the medical health officer strongly recommends and encourages the wearing of a non-medical mask, consistent with the above exceptions.

“This change will offer an additional layer of protection for our staff and students. This mandate, in addition to the measures already in place, will allow our schools to safely continue face-to-face learning by following all appropriate measures to limit the spread of illness.

“We recognize this will be a change for some of our elementary students in Grades 4 and 5. We are working closely with schools and families to ensure all of our students continue to have access to non-medical face masks.”

RELATED: B.C. announces amendments to school mask mandate amid COVID surge

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Chilliwack Progress