How relaxed restrictions will affect P.E.I. schools

·2 min read
A release from the Chief Public Health Office said masks will still be required for students and staff in K-12 when they are on buses and when not seated in class. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
A release from the Chief Public Health Office said masks will still be required for students and staff in K-12 when they are on buses and when not seated in class. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

Mask mandates at P.E.I. schools will be lifted for both students and staff members when seated in class starting next Friday.

Masking will continue when inside a school bus or when moving through the school.

The change is part of a larger announcement from the Chief Public Health Office this week to lift the provincial mask mandate on May 6.

Public Schools Branch director Norbert Carpenter supports the recommendation and called it a good first step.

While masking has been effective in containing the spread of COVID-19, he said, wearing one all day is a long period of time for a student.

And the mandate created barriers related to speech and language development for early learners.

"You want that unencumbered feeling to be able to speak freely, to be able to see the lips of another person as they speak," he said.

"So if it is safe to [remove masks] inside a classroom, we would feel that that's a good decision."

Carpenter still welcomes students and staff to continue wearing a mask if that is what makes them feel comfortable.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

At Spring Park Elementary School in Charlottetown, the change has garnered mixed feelings.

Karen Ross, a grandparent of a Spring Park student, said she doesn't support the move.

"The masks have proven to keep COVID under guard, and I don't see any reason to put them away," she said. "School should be the safest place they can go to."

But Linh Nguyen, who has two sons attending the school, said she would like to see masks go away altogether.

"It's good for the children if they don't have to wear the mask anymore. It's easier for them to speak to their friends and easy to work with their teacher," she said.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

Students have also been required to take rapid tests three times a week since schools reopened in the new year.

But the possibility of that safety measure relaxing will come after May 13 when it will be re-evaluated.

Carpenter hopes that the lower absence rates for both students and staff are an indicator that COVID-19 is not as rampant as it once was.

He said permanently removing both in-class masking and testing will largely depend on what the data suggests.

"We've learned through this pandemic [that] we have to be nimble, we have to adjust. Never say never because some of these measures could be back in place."

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