Adriana LaGrange, Alberta’s Minister of Education, announced that face masks will be mandatory for students in Grades 4-12 and all staff for the 2020-2021 school year.
Staff will be required to wear a mask in all settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Students must wear a mask in all shared and common areas, such as hallways, school buses.
“Masks are not required inside the classroom when students are seated and the teacher is distanced from the students, though they can still be worn if the student or teacher chooses,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said at a press conference on Tuesday.
She added that desks should be “as far apart as possible” in classrooms and students should not be facing each other.
Masks are optional for younger students in Alberta, which Dr. Hinshaw indicated is because of emerging evidence that children who are 10 or older may be more likely to transit COVID-19 than younger children, in additional to compliance difficulties with younger students.
The Alberta government will be providing every student, from Kindergarten to Grade 12, with two reusable masks. The same number of reusable masks will also be provided to teachers, support staff, school staff and school bus drivers. Additional single-use masks will be available at schools.
Teachers, support staff, school staff and bus divers will also receive one reusable face shield, which can be used at the discretion of the individual.
“While face shields can help reduce exposure they are not equivalent to masks,” minister LaGrange said, adding that a mask must still be worn with a face shield.
Dr. Hinshaw stressed that masks are only one part of the public health approach put in place for the upcoming school years.
“Masks alone do not keep kids and schools safe from COVID-19,” she said. “Indeed, no single precaution or public health measure will eliminate all risks of exposure in schools or any other setting.”