Red Deer Public Schools says it will stand by the decisions of its students when it comes to not wearing, or wearing, a mask starting next week.
The province has announced that starting on Monday, pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 students will no longer have to wear masks in schools to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
“I know there is a concern regarding bullying and discrimination, and Red Deer Public School Division maintains that respect will be upheld in our buildings regardless of personal family choices,” said school board chair Nicole Buchanan.
“Regardless of individual and family decisions around masking and vaccination, it is essential that we maintain respectful school environments for all our students, staff and families.”
The province says masking will still be required for adults including teachers, administrators, other school staff, volunteers and bus drivers at this time.
Buchanan said Red Deer Public staff will continue to have access to N95 masks.
Cohorting, and enhanced cleaning and sanitization, will also continue until the district is guided to do otherwise by the province.
Red Deer Public said that jurisdictions were not involved in consultation surrounding the new health guidelines, nor have they been consulted on previous guideline decisions made under the direction of the chief medical officer of health.
Buchanan said the lack of consultation has been frustrating, a criticism other jurisdictions have also raised throughout the pandemic.
Following the provincial government’s announcement to begin easing restrictions related to COVID-19, the school board also rescinded its temporary policy regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for staff, practicum students, trustees, visitors and volunteers at its Feb. 9 meeting.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange posted on social media that unmasked children pose no threat to teachers.
Yesterday, Premier Kenney announced that mandatory masking requirements for K-12 students would be ending next week, but at least one teachers' union executive wants to fight to keep masks on children. I've shared my thoughts in this video. #AbEd #AbLeg pic.twitter.com/NIDW973Tg0
— Adriana LaGrange (@AdrianaLaGrange) February 10, 2022
“The science is clear that children are at a much lower risk of COVID-19 than adults, and forcing them to cover their faces while learning and playing simply cannot be justified any longer,” LaGrange said in a video post.
But parents can still decide to have their children wear masks, she said.
“If you would like your child to continue wearing a mask in school, you’re free to continue to do so. Each parent will make the decision that is best for their family. But the province and school boards will not be mandating this.”
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