Nearly all Sask. school divisions to require masks without being forced
Published Thursday, August 20, 2020 4:24PM CST Last Updated Tuesday, May 25, 2021 5:37PM CST
A student wears a mask in this stock photo.
REGINA -- Nearly all Saskatchewan school divisions will require masks this fall, despite the provincial government refusing to bring in a mandate.
The government left boards to decide whether to make masks mandatory in schools, unlike Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Alberta, which made them a rule in certain settings.
Most recently, Manitoba switched from strongly recommending to mandating mask use for Grades 4 to 12 in classes where physical distancing isn't possible.
Premier Scott Moe's office says 24 out of the province's 27 school divisions have confirmed they will enforce mandatory masking policies when classes resume on Sept. 8.
The government's advice for divisions opting for masks is they should be worn by students in Grades 4 to 12 in busy areas such as hallways and on buses.
Moe's press secretary, Jim Billington, says at this point that advice isn't changing.
Saskatchewan's Ministry of Education says, as of Wednesday, Christ the Teacher School Division, Northern Lights School Division and Sun West School Division were the three districts still considering mask policies.
"We are not going about this thinking that in every situation will the mask be mandatory," says Sun West's director of education, Randy Emmerson.
"We're hoping that with staggered start times, and using varied entrances and with arrangements of classrooms and with front-facing instruction ... we will be able to create those conditions upon which the masks will not need to be worn."
He says students will be asked to wear masks when they can't maintain physical distancing as outlined in the provincial guidelines, but the face coverings are only one measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The division has 42 schools, Emmerson says, serving rural communities of different sizes and with schools ranging from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, and Grade 9 to Grade 12.
Emmerson says feedback from parents about masking has also been varied.
"Right from, 'Please don't make our children wear masks, it'll be ineffective' ... to, 'We won't be sending our children to school unless you have a masking-mandatory statement."'
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2020.