SASKATOON -- Horizon School Division plans to mandate masks when physical distancing isn’t possible in Grade 4-12 classrooms and recommend them for pre-kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms.

“We’re going to err on the side of safety and ensure that our children and our families and our staff are as safe as we can possibly support them,” director of education Kevin Garinger told CTV News.

Masks will also be required in entrances, hallways, common areas and for all students on buses.

They will be mandated for all staff when physical distance isn’t possible as well as bus drivers when loading and unloading children.

Masks with clear sections over the mouth are being bought for speech language pathologists and teachers working with students with unique needs such as cochlear implants.

The province has delegated mandatory mask policy to school divisions. Both Saskatoon’s public and Catholic school divisions are also mandating masks in Grades 4 to 12 in situations where physical distancing isn’t possible.

Research indicates that masks are the first thing to be considered in a school setting, Garinger said.

Physical distancing in schools isn’t going to be easy, especially in younger grades, he said.

However, many classrooms in Grades 4 and up could allow for two-metre distances, in which case students and teachers might not have to wear masks.

The division is fortunate to have the third-lowest class sizes in the province, he said.

His message to parents is to stress the importance of buying masks for their children.

In the interim, disposable masks will be available, he said.