This morning, Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced an important update to the Public Health Communicable Disease Guidance for K-12 Schools and the Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 Settings. I am writing to inform you about this change and to update you on the notification process for school exposures.
Update to face coverings mandate
The provincial government has announced that beginning Monday, October 4, 2021, all students in B.C. schools will be required to wear a mask when inside a school building, including while at their desks and on buses. This builds on the existing guidelines that currently apply to all students in grades 4-12. Learn more about this change to the face coverings mandate in the Ministry of Education news release.
Because we recognize that many students in grades K-3 may not be used to wearing masks, teachers will spend October 4 and 5 helping children adjust to this change, with the goal of building mask wearing into student routines by Wednesday, October 6. We suggest you send your K-3 child to school with a clean mask and a spare mask that they are used to wearing. Schools will have disposable masks available.
As a reminder, provincial guidance advises that mask requirements do not apply to staff, students and visitors in the following circumstances:
- A person cannot tolerate wearing a mask for health or behavioural reasons;
- A person is unable to put on or remove a mask without the assistance of another person;
- If the mask is removed temporarily for the purposes of identifying the person wearing it;
- If the mask is removed temporarily to engage in an educational activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask;
- If a person is eating or drinking;
- If a person is behind a barrier; or
- While providing a service to a person with a disability or diverse ability where visual cues, facial expressions and/or lip reading/movements is important.
The guidelines stipulate that schools must not require a health-care provider note to confirm if staff, students or visitors cannot wear a mask, and that no student should be prevented from attending or fully participating at school if they do not wear a mask.
Change to notification process for school exposures
The provincial government also made a change to the notification process for school exposures, directing local health authorities to begin posting general school exposure notifications to their websites. You can find exposure notifications for our school district and the Fraser Health region more broadly on the Fraser Health school exposures page. For a helpful overview of the contact tracing process for school exposures, visit the BC CDC website.
Thank you for your continued support,
Superintendent of Schools