SK government now considering mask mandate in schools

Saskatchewan kids heading back to school in September may end up wearing masks after all.

The province said the ministries of education and health are actively considering a mandatory masking policy under Level 2 of its Safe Schools plan released earlier this week. Under Level 2 of that plan, mask usage can be implemented under the direction of the Chief Medical Health Officer.

Right now, the plan is still to begin school in Phase 1 of the provincial government’s plan next month, which doesn’t include a recommendation for masks. But Education Minister Gord Wyant said nothing is set in stone.

“There has been some consultation between the Saskatchewan Medical Association, representatives from the ministries of health and education to determine whether or not that should change,” stated Wyant on Friday from Saskatoon.

“There are some guidelines that came forward from the federal government which are recommending mask usage on the return to school. Those are things that are being considered.”

The government adds it has procured six million disposable masks for schools across the province which should supply school divisions until the end of the calendar year and will be made available to students, teachers and staff at the beginning of the school year and on a daily basis.

In addition to masks, the province has obtained access to free face shields for staff that wish to use them. The shields come from a Canadian company based in Ontario.

The opposition NDP has echoed what some concerned residents have been saying this week following the government’s release of their Safe Schools Plan on Tuesday.

Increased funding, lowering class sizes and clear guidance for mask use are some of the requests from the NDP regarding the government’s plan.

NDP Education Critic Carla Beck said we are about three weeks out from schools reopening, yet the government has created a plan that doesn’t provide safety for students and staff. She said it seems like Minister Wyant is prepared to not spend an extra dollar on implementing a plan that might be safer.

“So far we’ve seen the minister really not put in a plan that implements recommendations from medical health experts that seem to apply at other places like Wal-Mart or many retail spaces,” explained Beck.

“I’m hearing that parents aren’t sure about sending their children back. Teachers are uncertain about whether they want to continue in the profession. Families are having to make decisions because they might have somebody in their family or extended family that is immunocompromised.”

The announcement from the province earlier this week that kids would not be required to wear masks while attending classes was met with negativism from many.

(With files from Moises Canales)

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