The B.C. Ministry of Education expanded mask rules for public school students on Feb. 4. (Stock photo)

The B.C. Ministry of Education expanded mask rules for public school students on Feb. 4. (Stock photo)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union hopes for stricter mask rules in schools

Local teachers’ union says B.C. rules fall short of other provinces

B.C.’s Ministry of Education has expanded mask rules for students, but Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union hopes for stricter regulations.

Jennifer Whiteside, B.C. education minister, announced this morning that masks are now mandatory in indoor areas for middle school and secondary students, however, affected students will be exempt when they are at their seat, if a barrier is in place and while drinking or eating. Previously masks were only mandatory in high-traffic areas in schools.

Elementary school students, as was the case previously, are still not required to wear masks.

Jeremy Inscho, Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association spokesperson, told the News Bulletin he is pleased B.C. education sector standards are becoming “incrementally” more in line with others, but it falls short of other provinces.

“Ontario has a mask mandate for Grade 1-12, and at all times. Alberta is 4-12,” said Inscho. Why are we doing 8-12 and sometimes 6-7? That’s just not clear. There’s a risk, there’s a concern and our province isn’t protecting students and staff to the level that others are.”

story continues below

The district has reported COVID-19 exposures at several schools in the last week and Inscho said union members are worried as they are under “deep pressure to maintain a healthy, safe environment to the best of their ability to perform their jobs.” While Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s health officer, said there haven’t been COVID-19 variant cases in schools, Inscho is hopeful for testing.

“When we’re looking at clusters, when we know it’s more than just an isolated case, we need to jump on this,” said Inscho. “We have these more transmissible variants going around right now and we need to do more than the minimum. If we jump in now to increase our prevention, we can get ahead of the curve, rather than reacting. The [announcement] today was based on looking at what has worked so far and obviously it hasn’t worked because we’re [expanding] it, but why not take a bigger step? Why not do more when we’re expecting the risks to be greater with more transmissible variants?”

Inscho said the union is satisfied with cleaning protocols put in place due to the pandemic, but they should be the norm. He said previous governments under-funded education, often at the expense of education support workers, such as cleaning staff.

“Until this year, we haven’t had daytime custodians in elementary schools for years,” said Inscho. “Now we do and schools are clean and it’s noticeable. The custodians are able to do more than just sweep the floors and empty the garbage. There’s actually some sanitation happening here and cleaning surfaces and that’s at a standard that needs to stay. That’s not a COVID thing, that should be an all-time thing in prevention of future outbreaks of even the annual cold and flu.”

Charlene McKay, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board chairperson, said she is satisfied with today’s announcement.

“I appreciate that the provincial health office has finessed the guidelines to make them perhaps a little more effective,” said McKay. “I do think that mask wearing is one of the lowest levels of protection that’s available to us and so it’s good that we’ve added in another layer of protection in certain circumstances and appreciate that they’ve reviewed the guidelines overall.”

When asked at the press conference, Whiteside detailed how the latest rules differ from the previous ones.

“[Students] will be required to wear a mask when they’re entering their classroom or learning space, if they are engaged in any group work or discussions, if they’re getting up from their desk to get a drink of water or to move around the classroom,” said Whiteside. “And those provisions are consistent with what we see in office/workplace settings, for example.”

Ally Segreto, a Ladysmith Secondary School Grade 12 student and student council vice-president, said there has been buy-in and she doesn’t see student habits changing.

“It’s pretty much the same thing that myself and a lot of other of my classmates have been doing already … it’s not really that different,” said Segreto. “If you’re sitting you’re allowed to keep [your mask] off, but if you’re standing and walking around or doing group work you have to put it back on.”

RELATED: B.C. expands masks rules, rolls out response teams

RELATED: BCTF survey sees teachers feeling unsafe at schools

RELATED: SD68 won’t heed request for mandatory masks right now



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Karl on Twitter and Instagram

CoronavirusEducationNanaimo

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

News Bulletin file photo
Wrong set of golf clubs given away outside Nanaimo thrift store

Family spreading word about mistake in hopes clubs might be returned to them

The Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges with garbage bin replacement requests. (Michael Briones photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges to meet requests for garbage bin replacements

Waste manager says RDN will have a surplus of 100-litre carts

Nanaimo RCMP are investigating after a hit-and-run incident outside the 7-Eleven store at University Village Mall Feb. 3. (Photo submitted)
UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP speak to people of interest in hit-and-run investigation

Police continuing to investigate Feb. 3 incident in Harewood

(News Bulletin file)
Wellington, Ladysmith secondary schools latest with COVID-19 cases

NDSS and Bayview Elementary also experienced exposures, says SD68

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board is forwarding a motion on illegal dumping to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities’ upcoming annual general meeting. (Kane Blake photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo motion seeks to ask province for help to combat illegal dumping

RDN resolution to be forwarded to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

Most Read