A Red Deer mother says if masks ever become mandatory for all students, she will fight for her daughter’s right to attend class without a face covering.
Kristina MacKenzie said her daughter Elizabella, who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, left Central Middle School early four times in September in tears when she was not allowed to remove her mask.
“She says it’s almost impossible (to breathe). It just feels like she’s trying to breath through a small hole like she’s snorkelling,” said MacKenzie about her daughter, who is in Grade 6.
“She doesn’t want to go to school. She doesn’t want to leave the house. She doesn’t want to do anything, because everything requires the mask.”
She said students with medical issues are “not suppose to be forced, or bullied, into wearing a mask.”
Thankfully, in recent weeks, staff have become less pushy, and her daughter is allowed to forgo a mask if she sits apart from other students.
A few other pupils in some of her classes also don’t wear masks and sit apart, the mother said.
“She’s certainly not the only one dealing with this.”
MacKenzie said it is important for her daughter to be in school to ease her social anxiety, but said it would be much better if kids could choose whether to wear masks.
Bruce Buruma, community relations director with Red Deer Public Schools, said the district follows the direction of the Ministry of Education and Alberta’s chief medical officer of health when it comes to COVID-19, which includes accommodating students who are medically fragile, or have complex needs, and can’t wear masks.
“We recognize there are challenges for some students with masks. They really need to just talk with school administration, and provide the background information, and our schools will respond,” Buruma said.
Rules require school staff and Grade 4 to 12 students to wear face masks in congregated spaces. Kindergarten to Grade 3 students are encouraged, but not required, to wear masks.
Buruma said there have been few issues with masks since classes resumed in September. Even some kindergarten to Grade 3 students wear masks, he said.
“We’ve had some COVID cases in our district and we’ve seen what the impact of that has been. We all have a role to play in trying to minimize the risks. I think parents and students and staff are wanting to do that.”
So far, the district has seen cases at Hunting Hills High School, Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, West Park Elementary School and Escuela Vista Grande.