Skip to content

Richmond teachers concerned mask mandate not enough protection for students

Five COVID-19 positive patients in Richmond Hospital
Mask on school locker during covid
A new mask mandate has been placed for returning students in B.C. for the fall.

Masks are only “strongly recommended” but not required for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3, and that doesn’t sit well with the Richmond Teacher Association (RTA).

The current policy, as it pertains to students in lower grades, is just “not strong enough” to protect those returning to in-class learning as of Sept. 7, according to the RTA’s president Liz Baverstock.

“The mask announcement (on Aug. 24) doesn’t make sense for the younger population who is not vaccinated,” said Baverstock.

“The RTA and BCTF are advocating for K-12 mask requirements to start the school year. Encouraging students to wear masks in lower grades is helpful but is not strong enough.”

B.C.’s Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside stated in a news briefing early last week that all staff and students in Grade 4 and up are required to wear masks within the school setting, including in both classrooms and while taking school transportation.

However, masks are only “strongly recommended” for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3.

The BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) also took to social media with concern that the provincial government has yet to provide a “clear rationale” for exempting students in grades K-3, who are not vaccinated, from the BC mask mandate.

In the meantime, the BCTF is advising everyone to get vaccinated to help curb the pandemic as the new school year approaches.

“Since elementary children won’t be vaccinated and the rates for secondary students are still low, it’s imperative that you do what you can to protect yourself and those you work with,” said BCTF in a statement.

The RTA has also been encouraging all their members to be vaccinated when the options were available.

“It would be helpful if clinics were set-up in schools next week. I know the BCTF is advocating for this, and we will be doing the same through our venues,” Baverstock added.

Meanwhile, there were a total of five COVID-19 positive patients at Richmond Hospital as of Friday, Aug. 27, according to Jeremy Deutsch, spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health.

Two of the patients were in the COVID-19 unit and three were in ICU.

“It continues to be safe to access services at hospitals and health-care clinics in our region,” said Deutsch.

“To protect our patients, clients, staff and medical staff, all our hospitals and clinics follow the safety standards set by Infection Prevention and Control, Public Health and the Provincial Medial Officer.”