Alberta education minister says she will listen to top doctor about masks in schools

CALGARY — Alberta's education minister says she will take advice from the province's new chief medical health officer on whether to allow school boards to bring in mask mandates in schools with respiratory illness outbreaks.

The Edmonton public school board has asked Alberta Health and Alberta Education whether it can require masks as schools deal with a wave of viral illnesses that is sending thousands of students home sick.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was asked about the request several times during a news conference about additional mental health supports for students.

She says students and staff are welcome to wear masks but the government doesn't anticipate going to a mask mandate.

Dr. Mark Joffe, who was appointed chief medical officer of health earlier this week, hasn't been made available to comment on the respiratory viruses that are also straining hospitals.

Premier Danielle Smith has been critical of mask rules in schools, saying they adversely affected the mental health, development and education of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Edmonton school board says there are similar mental health concerns when students miss school or worry about getting sick.

The Canadian Press