Moose Jaw public, Catholic school divisions implement different mask policies for elementary

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Two school divisions operating schools in Moose Jaw have announced different masking policies for the upcoming school year. (Warren Kay/CBC - image credit)
Two school divisions operating schools in Moose Jaw have announced different masking policies for the upcoming school year. (Warren Kay/CBC - image credit)

The two school divisions that operate schools in Moose Jaw are implementing different policies in regards to masking in elementary schools.

Holy Trinity Catholic School Division is making masks mandatory for students in elementary schools and recommending masks in high schools.

"Approximately 80 per cent of the students in our elementary schools are not fully vaccinated, the majority of those currently ineligible for a vaccine," the division said in its return-to-school plan.

It said the decision was made with the guidance of local medical health officers.

"In consultation with our local medical health officers, we believe this is the most prudent step to maintain the general health of this vulnerable population and to minimize disruption to in-person learning."

Holy Trinity operates one high school and five elementary schools in Moose Jaw, one elementary in Swift Current and one in Shaunavon.

The division is mandating masks for elementary students on school transportation, along with all staff and visitors inside schools.

"Public health indicates its goal for full vaccination (age 12-17) is 80 to 85 per cent," the division said.

The division said the two-dose vaccination rate for 12 to 17 was considerably lower than the target as of Aug. 20.

  • Moose Jaw - 52 per cent.

  • Swift Current - 53 per cent.

  • Shaunavon - 31 per cent.

As of Monday, 52 per cent of those aged 12 to 17 across Saskatchewan had received two doses of vaccine.

Prairie South, the public school division that operates schools in Moose Jaw, is not using the same policy as its Catholic counterpart.

The division indicated on Aug. 20 that it would be following the province's "safe schools plan" released in July, which indicated a return to "traditional in-class learning."

The Ministry of Education's plan recommended but did not mandate mask use in schools.

The guidance prompted a revised recommendation from Prairie South on Aug. 25.

"We now strongly recommend that all children under the age of 12, unvaccinated students and staff, and all visitors wear a mask in all common areas such as school entrances, hallways, lunchrooms, washrooms, libraries, and on school buses."

The division said it is "mask-friendly" and will support those who choose to wear a mask.

"Prairie South will continue to follow the direction of the Ministry of Health and our local public health agencies. Additionally, Prairie South is committed to responding immediately should the direction change."

Prairie South operates 38 schools in 19 communities stretching across the south and central part of the province.

Saskatchewan's four largest school boards — the public and Catholic divisions in Regina and Saskatoon — have all mandated masks in elementary schools, but not in high schools.

Prince Albert's public and Catholic divisions released a joint statement on Tuesday announcing mandatory masking in all schools.

"The divisions have taken the advice of medical experts and will start the school year requiring masks indoors in all schools for pre K to Grade 12 students, staff and visitors and on all school buses," a statement from the two Prince Albert divisions said.

The Chinook School Division in the province's southwest is recommending but not mandating mask use in classrooms. Its return to school plan was released on Thursday.

The division will require masks on buses, hallways, washrooms, common areas and for all visitors.

"In consultation with local public health officials, we will continually monitor COVID-19 and variant cases closely and adjust mask requirements and other guidelines based on public health direction," director of education Mark Benesh said in a letter to staff and families.

Chinook School Division has 62 schools in the province's southwest.

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