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Prairie South updates protocols around wearing masks in schools

'Mask compliance is required by all staff, students and visitors as a condition of being in a school in Prairie South ... . 'Gaiter’ masks, bandanas and hard plastic masks are not acceptable'
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Photo: Face masks / Getty Images

Prairie South School Division (PSSD) has updated its guidelines around wearing masks in schools and the people who are required — or not required — to wear the face coverings.

The school division updated its mask requirements on April 18 after receiving information from the provincial government, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, local public health employees and a review of safety processes, a letter on PSSD’s website said

“Continuing with students in cohorts, hand hygiene, cleaning and limited physical contact are critical elements of school safety in 2020-2021 regardless of mask protocol. COVID Variants of Concern are more easily transmitted than the original strain of COVID, and heightened attention is required related to masking at this time,” the letter said. 

“Mask compliance is required by all staff, students and visitors as a condition of being in a school in Prairie South. Only non-medical and cloth masks that fully cover the face from below the chin to the bridge of the nose are allowable. ‘Gaiter’ masks, bandanas and hard plastic masks are not acceptable.”

A chart laying out the protocol for wearing masks shows:

  • Pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 students: Masks are required in all classrooms and other learning spaces, including gymnasiums, indoor transitions such as hallways and bathroom visits, and school buses. “Mask breaks” are not allowed while inside the school
  • All school staff: Masks are required in all classrooms when students or staff are present and during indoor transitions
  • School visitors: Masks are always required
  • Outdoors: Masks are not required outdoors when students remain in their classroom cohorts
  • Mask-exempt students: Students with a medical condition that makes mask use unsafe may be exempt from parts or all the protocol with written permission from their doctor. A medical-grade disposable blue mask and a face shield is required for staff working with these children. Individual circumstances will determine whether mask-exempt students attend school in person or remotely
  • Mask-exempt staff: Staff with a medical condition that makes mask use unsafe may be exempt from parts or all the protocol with written permission from their doctor. Staff cannot attend work unmasked without prior written consent from the superintendent of human resources

Besides exemptions for staff and students, the protocol also lays out two other types of exemptions, the letter said. 

In circumstances where students of any age require additional support, additional personal protective equipment (PPE) is to be used at the discretion of the student-support team planning for that student. However, school activities that preclude masking for safety reasons are not allowed.

In a separate letter, education director Tony Baldwin and board chair Robert Bachmann updated parents about school had gone during the first week back the Easter break. They confirmed that one case of COVID-19 was detected on April 14, which forced a Grade 3 class and staff member to isolate for 14 days. 

“We continue to request parent assistance to ensure the safety of our staff and students,” they wrote. “Please ensure that you and your children are following all public health recommendations in terms of contact with others … . 

“We met with local and provincial public health officials on Wednesday, April 14, to review our safety processes and our decision to maintain in-person learning in our schools. In addition to the reminder for parents regarding community behaviour, we have tightened mask protocols and will be requiring additional PPE for some staff in specific situations … . 

“Based on our conversations with public health officials this week, we are moving ahead with (full) in-person learning next week.” 

Bachmann and Baldwin added that they planned to communicate more often with parents in the weeks ahead.