Students will be required to wear masks on buses and at certain times during the school day when they return to class next month, says the province's Department of Education and Lifelong Learning.
"We got lots of feedback from people and we're listening," said Brad Trivers, P.E.I.'s Minister of Education.
"If people want to do it and we think there's any chance that it'll make people even feel safer, I want to take that step."
The new policy was announced Friday in an emailed news release.
Exceptions to the mask policy will be made on a case-by-case basis, it said.
As well, Trivers said schools have the option to stagger start dates if they want to hold an orientation day for new students to the school on Sept. 8. Those orientations are usually held at the end of the previous school year but they were cancelled this past spring due to COVID.
"There were concerns again being expressed from parents, students and teachers alike that when they're making a transition to a new school ... they need to have some time to see the new space to adapt to it."
If a school chooses that option, the remaining grades would start school on Sept. 9. Trivers said schools will communicate directly with their school community about their intended start dates.
Other updates to the policy include:
Masks will be required for bus drivers whenever they are not seated, facing forward and driving the bus.
Masks will be required for students in Grades 7-12 during transitions (movements between classrooms and when going to washrooms, for example) and emergency procedures.
Masks will be required for staff teaching Grades 7-12 during transitions and emergency procedures.
Masks will be required for any visitor to the school during transitions and emergency procedures.
Mask policies for students and staff in kindergarten to Grade 6 while in school have not changed. The province said masks are encouraged when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
"We just felt that we didn't need to do it in the K-6. I think most of the teachers are going to do it anyhow," said Trivers. "In fact, I would go out on a limb and say all the teachers are going to wear masks in transition spaces."
Schools and buses will have masks available for any student or staff member who needs one.
The province also announced students, families and staff can expect staggered recess, lunch and arrival and departure times. Classrooms will be reorganized to increase spacing between desks.
Breakfast, snack and lunch programs will continue under food premises guidelines from the Chief Medical Health Office.
"I think it's just a testament, again, to the front line staff in particular in our education system. They're constantly changing, they're constantly improving and they're open to doing that," said Trivers.
"These plans are fluid and we will adjust as necessary."
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